Man who built Steel Structures and died listening to Beethoven


Article first published as The Interesting Life of Eiffel on Blogcritics.

Some men are born contradictions in every way they live. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was one such person. Born a French, but took on a last name from a German mountain, Eifel; Gustave graduated in Science and Humanities. He later did an equivalent of Masters of Science in Chemistry. He learnt the science and art of building structures at a company where he took employment at the entry level. The company designed bridges. One of his superiors saw the talent in Eiffel for managing projects to build structures and helped him move up.

Later in life he designed many bridges and was even involved in a massive failure of the French to build Panama Canal.

When his signature Eiffel Tower came up just in time for the World Fair in Paris, there was a large hue and cry in France. He was criticized for having built a very distasteful structure with no aesthetics. Something that even “commercial America” wouldn’t do. The fair however earned him the cost back. It was much later that Eiffel Tower became the iconic symbol that it was. The steel structure taught many lessons in constructing such structures.

Although his name has become connected to a very steely structure, which shocked the French who cared for aesthetics; Eiffel’s work was also to go into one of most aesthetic structures in the world – the Statue of LIberty. The armature (steel structure holding up the outside scaffolding) of Statue of LIberty was designed by Eiffel as well.

Isn’t it interesting that one person, who was never educated to be a builder or an architect, went on to design two of the greatest icons of modern world – the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of LIberty – through which the two countries – France and US are known by. And ancestrally, he belonged to none of them.

This multi-faceted person wasn’t satisfied with such iconic contributions to the world of science and structure. He also worked in the areas of aerodynamics, meteorology, and radio-broadcasting. He used the Eiffel towers base to build a wind tunnel and did research based on that about the steel structures.

He also placed various meteorological equipment on the tower to get readings and also suggested that it be used for military radio work. The tower was finally used for TV broadcasting.

Late December, Eiffel finally died aged 91 listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony. For a person who was designing steel and metallic structures, accused of unaesthetic designs, left his body listening from arguably one of the best music ever made.

Think about it – we all live a life of mediocrity, while we keep trying our best to get “security” in life. However, what do we get? Have we achieved even a fraction of what a life rich of experiences like Eiffel’s did?

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