Scientist of the Day - Alexandre Gustave Eiffel
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, a French structural engineer, was born Dec. 15, 1832. In 1886, to highlight the upcoming world’s fair in Paris in 1889, Eiffel proposed building a 300 meter iron tower on the Champs Mars to overlook the exposition grounds. Work on the tower started in 1887, and by March of 1889, the structure was completed. Some years later, Eiffel published a large two-volume folio documenting the construction process, and the second volume contains diagrams of every detail of the tower (and of the elevators that ran up two of the legs), as well as photographs of the tower as it rose from the ground. The first three images above are taken from that volume, and show stages of the construction. Image four shows a view of the cathedral of Notre Dame, as seen from the top of the completed tower. The fifth image, a contemporary postcard, shows us how the Eiffel Tower fit into the exposition grounds.
It is not often realized, even by visitors, that Eiffel chose to honor 72 eminent French scientists and engineers and had their names engraved on a narrow frieze that runs around the tower, just below the first stage. The names were accidently painted over and forgotten in the early 20th century, but in 1986 they were re-discovered and restored to readability. In one of his diagrams of the structure of the tower, Eiffel shows us one side, with 18 of the names drawn in (see sixth image above).
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City