Gustave Eiffel is one of the most important French people of the 19th and 20th centuries. As well as giving the world the Eiffel Tower, he also built several other important landmarks and made significant contributions to various other areas of study.
Let’s take a look at 10 important facts about Gustave Eiffel.
Gustave Eiffel Facts
1. Gustave Eiffel was born in 1832
Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon on December 15th, 1832. He was the first child of Catherine-Mélanie (née Moneuse) and Alexandre Bonickhausen dit Eiffel and had descended from German ancestry who had moved to Paris.
Gustave’s mother was a business owner in Paris, and as a result of this, Gustave spent much of his childhood being raised by his grandmother. Despite the success he would go on to achieve in his later life, Gustave Eiffel was not a particularly studious child.
2. Gustave Eiffel died in 1923
Gustave Eiffel lived a very long life. He passed away in Paris on the 27th December 1923, while listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, an interesting fact about Gustave Eiffel. The course of his death is unknown but given that he was 93 years old at the time of his passing, it is assumed it was from general old age and natural courses.
3. Gustave Eiffel designed and built the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic landmark in France and it was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel. The tower is also named after the architect.
The tower was built between 1887 to 1889 and was originally made for the 1889 World Fair which was held in the city. The tower was originally criticized by a lot of intellectuals and critics in Paris, with many deeming it to be an ugly structure.
The tower rode out those original criticisms though and has gone on to become one of the most iconic landmarks in both France and the world. In fact, it is the most visited paid-for landmark in the entire world, with around 6.9 million people ascending up to the top of the tower every year.
4. Gustave Eiffel made the metalwork for the Statue of Liberty
Other than the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel’s most significant contribution during his lifetime was making the metalwork for the Statue of Liberty, an interesting fact about Gustave Eiffel.
As a symbol of friendship between the USA and France, the Statue of Liberty was designed by the famous French sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, and the metalwork for the iconic structure was then made by Gustave Eiffel.
The Statue of Liberty still stands next to Ellis Island in New York today and is seen as a symbol of liberty and freedom in America. There is also a mini version of the Statue of Liberty located in Paris that is facing the one in New York, as another gesture of unity between the two nations.
5. Gustave Eiffel was A graduate of École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures
Despite not being overly studious, Gustave Eiffel excelled at the sciences and engineering and he would go on to study at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, which is one of the most prestigious engineering schools not just in France, but in the world.
Gustave Eiffel would finish 13th out of 80 graduates and his education would help him go on to get his first job in engineering.
6. Gustave Eiffel was also involved in meteorology and aerodynamics
Once Gustave Eiffel had retired from architecture, he made a move into aerodynamics and meteorology. This move was inspired by some frustrations Eiffel had encountered with the effect wind force was having on some of his structures.
Gustave Eiffel would go on to have some success in this field as well and he conducted various experiments using wind tunnels during this time period. He was awarded the Samuel P. Langley Medal for Aerodromics by the Smithsonian Institution in 1913 when he was 83 years old.
7. Involvement in The Panama Scandal
After finishing work on the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel became involved in a scandal that had a big effect on his public image at the time.
Eiffel became involved in a project to build a canal over the Panama Isthmus. The French canal company had been wanting to complete the project for some time and they hired Eiffel to design locks that would be used as part of the canal.
The company fell onto hard times financially though and this led to them being put into liquidation in 1887. While Gustave Eiffel was only working for the company as a contractor, his well-known name being linked to the scandal did him few favors and his reputation in France took a hit. Eiffel was charged with misuse of funds in 1893, though was later acquitted.
8. Gustave Eiffel made his name building bridges in France, most notably the Garabit Viaduct
Gustave Eiffel’s early career was the catalyst for his later success as he earned himself a name as one of the top civil engineers and architects in France. He worked on many famous bridges and buildings throughout the country, with one of his most significant contributions being the impressive Garabit Viaduct, which spans Truyère, near Ruynes-en-Margeride, Cantal in France. An interesting fact about Gustave Eiffel is that this bridge gained him a lot of attention and helped establish him as one of the top architects in the country.
9. Gustave Eiffel married once and had five children
Despite all of his success and traveling, Gustave Eiffel still managed to find the time to start a family. He married Marguerite Gaudelet in 1862, and the two would be married for 15 years until her death in 1877. During this time period, the couple would have five children together – three daughters and two sons.
10. Gustave Eiffel was responsible for the Maria Pia bridge in Porto
An important fact about Gustave Eiffel is that he built the Maria Pia Bridge in Porto, Portugal. The Maria Pia Bridge is one of the most popular tourist sites in the entire city. The bridge was originally built in 1877 and is built out of wrought iron. The bridge was originally used as a railway bridge but it is no longer in use now.
Gustave Eiffel may be best remembered for the tower that bears his name but as we can see, his contributions to Europe and the wider world were huge. He is, without doubt, one of the most influential architects of all time.
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