Gustave Eiffel (1832 – 1923)
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Gustave Eiffel (1888)
© Félix Nadar
Dome of Nice observatory (1886)
Garabit viaduct in Cantal (1885)
© J. Thurion
Budapest station, Hungary (1876)
© United States Library of Congress
Born in Dijon, Gustave Eiffel, an engineer, graduated from the École centrale des arts et manufactures (Central School of Arts and Manufactures) in 1855. After several years in the South West, where he created the Bordeaux railway bridge, he set up on his own in 1864 as an entrepreneur specialised in metallic frameworks. Advocating the use of a new material called iron for its resistance. elasticity and lightness, as well as its easy storage and assembly, Gustave Eiffel constructed hundreds of metallic structures around the world, including Budapest station (1876), the Porto viaduct over the Douro (1878), the Garabit viaduct in Cantal (1885), Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty, whose internal framework he created (1884), the dome of Nice observatory (1886) and finally of course the Eiffel Tower, created for the 1889 Universal Exposition.
Initially heavily criticised as an insult to good taste before it was even unveiled, the Tower, constructed for a provisional period of twenty years, quickly became popular and earned its place as a symbol of Paris. However, after being involved in the lock designs in the Panama Canal scandal (1892), Eiffel abandoned construction and dedicated the rest of his life to scientific experiments, in this way finding a use for the Tower: the study of aerodynamics, a meteorological station, and above all as a giant radio antenna - the first to broadcast on French soil in 1921 - which ensured the continued existence of the Eiffel Tower.