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Gustave Eiffel
Birth: Dec. 15, 1832
Dijon
Departement de la Côte-d'Or
Bourgogne, France
Death: Dec. 27, 1923
Paris
City of Paris
Île-de-France, France

French Civil Engineer and Architect. He is best remembered for his world-famous Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, France. During his life he designed nearly 70 buildings, structures, bridges, and viaducts. Born Alexander Gustave Bonickhausen (he would later change his surname to Eiffel), his father was a descendant of German immigrants that settled in Paris, France in the early 1700s who worked as an administrator in the French Army and his mother operated a charcoal and coal distributing business she inherited from her parents. He spent his childhood living with his paternal grandmother but remained close to his mother. After finishing school at the Lycee Royal in Dijon, France, he attended the College Sainte-Barbe in Paris, in order to prepare for the difficult entrance exams set by the most important engineering colleges in France. He then qualified for entry to the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, which offered a rather more vocational training and during his second year he chose to specialize in chemistry. After graduation, he was unable to gain employment at his uncle's chemical business in Dijon and eventually found a job as a private secretary for railway engineer Charles Nepveu. When Nepveu's company went bankrupt, he secured a job with the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest, for whom he produced his first bridge design, a 72-foot sheet iron bridge for the Saint Germaine Railway. His first major work was the construction of a 1,600-foot iron girder bridge over the river Garonne at Bordeaux, France in March 1860. He was then appointed principal engineer of the Compagnie Belge. In 1865, when business began to decline, he resigned and established himself as an independent consulting engineer. In 1866 he managed to borrow enough money to set up his own workshops. His first important commission was for two viaducts for the railway line between Lyon and Bordeaux, and the company also began to undertake work in other countries, including the church of San Marcos in Arica, Chile, which was an all-metal prefabricated building, manufactured in France and shipped to South America in pieces to be assembled on site. In October 1868 he entered into partnership with Theophile Seyrig and formed the company Eiffel et Cie, and were given two important contracts, one for a new terminus for the line from Vienna to Budapest and the other for a bridge over the river Douro in Portugal, named after the Portuguese Queen Maria Pia. In 1879 the partnership with Seyrig was dissolved, and the company was renamed the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel. The same year the company was given the contract for the construction of the Garabit viaduct, a railway bridge near Ruynes en Margeride in the Cantal department in south-central France. In 1881 he was contacted by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi who was in need of an engineer to help him to create the Statue of Liberty. Some work had already been carried out by architect Eugene Viollet-Le-Duc, but he had died in 1879. Eiffel was selected because of his experience with wind stresses and he devised a structure consisting of a four legged pylon to support the copper sheeting which made up the body of the statue. The entire statue was erected at the Eiffel works in Paris before being dismantled and shipped to the US, re-assembled and dedicated on October 28, 1886. That same year, he began working on the design of a tower that was to become the centerpiece for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. In early January 1887 his proposal was accepted and work commenced about three weeks later and it was completed in March 1889 and named the Eiffel Tower in his honor. In 1887 he became involved with the French effort to construct a canal across the Panama Isthmus in Central America. Originally intended to be a sea-level canal, which later became impractical, it was changed to one using locks, which he was contracted to design and build. A year after working on the project, the company suspended interest payments and soon afterwards was put into liquidation. His reputation was badly damaged when he was implicated in the financial and political scandal which followed. Although he was simply a contractor, he was charged along with the directors of the project with raising money under false pretenses and misappropriation of funds and in February 1893 he was found guilty on the charge of misuse of funds, fined 20,000 francs and sentenced to two years in prison, although he was later acquitted on appeal. He then retired and focused his efforts in meteorology and aerodynamics and through his experiments, he established that the air resistance of a body was very closely related to the square of the airspeed. In 1905 he built a laboratory on the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and in 1909 he constructed his first wind tunnel there, which was used to investigate the characteristics of the airfoil sections used by the early pioneers of aviation such as the Wright Brothers, Gabriel Voisin and Louis Bleriot. In 1912 he moved his experiments to a new establishment at Auteuil in Paris where he was able to build a larger wind tunnel, and he began to make tests using scale models of aircraft designs. In 1913 he was awarded the Samuel P. Langley Medal for Aerodromics by the Smithsonian Institution. He died at his home at the age of 91. A bust in his honor was placed at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Children:
  Albert Eiffel (1873 - 1941)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Cimetiere de Levallois-Perret
Levallois-Perret
Departement des Hauts-de-Seine
Île-de-France, France
Plot: Division 10
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 27, 1999
Find A Grave Memorial# 4402
Gustave Eiffel
Added by: Bobb Edwards
 
Gustave Eiffel
Added by: REBELD
 
Gustave Eiffel
Added by: Philippe Landru
 
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