Can anyone guess what famous structure Gustave Eiffel is famous for?
If you guessed the Eiffel Tower, you’re right!
The construction of the tower was started in 1887 for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. The tower is composed of 12,000 different components and 2,500,000 rivets, all designed and assembled to handle wind pressure. The structure is a marvel in material economy, which Eiffel perfected in his years of building bridges—if it were melted down, the tower’s metal would only fill up its base about two and a half inches deep.
Onlookers were both awed that Eiffel could build the world’s tallest structure (at 984 feet) in just two years and torn by the tower’s unique design, most deriding it as hideously modern and useless. Despite the tower’s immediate draw as a tourist attraction, only years later did critics and Parisians begin to view the structure as a work of art.
The tower also directed Eiffel’s interest to the field of aerodynamics, and he used the structure for several experiments and built the first aerodynamic laboratory at its base, later moving the lab to the outskirts of Paris. The lab included a wind tunnel, and Eiffel’s work there influenced some of the first aviators, including the Wright Brothers. Eiffel went on to write several books on aerodynamics, most notably Resistance of the Air and Aviation, first published in 1907.
Did you know: In 1879, when the Statue of Liberty’s initial internal engineer, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, unexpectedly died, Eiffel was hired to replace him on the project. He created a new support system for the statue that would rely on a skeletal structure instead of weight to support the copper skin. Eiffel and his team built the statue from the ground up and then dismantled it for its journey to New York Harbor.