Some men are born contradictions in every way they live. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was one such person.
Born French, he took on a last name from a German mountain, Eifel. He graduated with a degree in Science and Humanities and later did an equivalent of Masters of Science in Chemistry. He learnt the science and art of building structures at a company where he started at entry level. The company designed bridges. One of his superiors saw Eiffel’s talent 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’s 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 the Eiffel Tower became the iconic symbol that it is now. 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 people’s aesthetics, Eiffel’s work was also to go into one of most aesthetic structures in the world—the Statue of LIberty. The Statue’s armature (the steel structure holding up the outside scaffolding) was designed by Eiffel.
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 the modern world—the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of LIberty—by which two countries, France and the U.S., are known?
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 tower’s base to build a wind tunnel for research. He also placed various meteorological equipment on the tower to get readings, and suggested that it be used for military radio work. The tower was eventually used for TV broadcasting.
In late December 1923, Eiffel finally died aged 91 listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. A person who was designing steel and metallic structures, and accused of unaesthetic designs, left his body listening to arguably some 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 in experiences like Eiffel’s did?