Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was a French civil engineer and architect. He is best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, and his contribution to building the Statue of Liberty in New York. After his retirement from engineering, Eiffel focused on research into meteorology and aerodynamics, and making significant contributions in both fields.
Gustave Eiffel was born in France, in the Côte-d'Or on December 15, 1832, the first child of Catherine-Mélanie (née Moneuse) and Alexandre Bönickhausen. He was a descendant of Jean-René Bönickhausen, who had emigrated from the German town of Marmagen and settled in Paris at the beginning of the 18th century. The family adopted the name Eiffel as a reference to the Eifel mountains in the region from which they had come. Although the family always used the name Eiffel, Gustave's name was registered at birth as Bönickhausen, and was not officially changed to Eiffel until 1880.
Eiffel went on to attend the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris, to prepare for the difficult entrance exams set by engineering colleges in France, and qualified for entry to two of the most prestigious schools – École polytechnique and École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures – and ultimately entered the latter. During his second year he chose to specialize in chemistry, and graduated ranking at 13th place out of 80 candidates in 1855.
After graduation from the College of Art and Manufacturing in 1855, Eiffel began to specialize in metal construction, especially bridges. He directed the erection of an iron bridge at Bordeaux in 1858, followed by several others, and designed the lofty, arched Gallery of Machines for the Paris Exhibition of 1867. In 1877 he bridged the Douro River at Oporto, Port. , with a 525-foot (160-metre) steel arch, which he followed with an even greater arch of the same type, the 540-foot (162-metre) span Garabit viaduct over the Truyère River in southern France, for many years the highest bridge in the world, 400 feet (120 m) over the stream. He designed the movable dome of the observatory at Nice and the framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Eiffel startled the world with the construction of the Eiffel Tower (1887–89), which brought him the nickname “magician of iron. ” It also directed his interest to problems of aerodynamics, and he used the tower for a number of experiments. At Auteuil, outside Paris, he built the first aerodynamic laboratory, where he continued to work throughout World War I; in 1921 he gave the laboratory to the state.
"Not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France's gratitude. "
He got married to Marie Gaudelet on July 8th, 1862. The couple remained married for fifteen years and had five children together (three girls, and two boys) before Marie caught pneumonia and died in 1887. Gustave never married again.