December 15 ~  That Tower Eiffel Tower: & Other Mythologies

"I ought to be jealous of that tower. She is more famous than I am." ~ Alexandre Gustave Eiffel


Born on this day in Dijon, structural engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832–1923) had nothing to be jealous about as the designer and builder of the Eiffel Tower.

The magnificent wrought-iron landmark was built in Paris as a "temporary exhibit" for the Exposition of 1889, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.

"Why should we disguise the industrial nature of iron, even in the city?" asked the man who was nicknamed the "magician of iron" for his tower's revolutionary lattice work. The genius Eiffel also designed part of the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.

"The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use," Eiffel said.

A celebration of mathematics and science, the Eiffel Tower stands 984 feet (300 meters) high. It took 26 months to build and upon its completion was the tallest structure in the world for 40 years until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.

There are 1,665 steps to the top of the tower, but most of the annual seven million visitors probably choose to take the elevator. On a clear day, the tower offers a superb view of the city, extending 45 miles.

A passionate symbol, the tower stands proudly on the left bank of the River Seine. It's hard to believe that when construction began, many hated it and called it the "iron skeleton" and "the hollow candlestick."

But, as French aphorist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg observed, "It often takes more courage to change one’s opinion that to stick to it." And the courageous French grew to love their cherished national symbol. What would Paris be without it?

ParisGo for the lasting substance, not the fleeting fame.