A Towering Engineer Is Born

Randy Alfred

bridge

Dec.16, 1832: Gustave Eiffel is born in Dijon, France. His innovative metal-structure design still supports buildings, bridges and even statues.

Eiffel was graduated from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855. He began his career by supervising railway construction in southwest France. He set himself up as an independent “constructor” in 1866.

To avoid a long, circuitous rail route, Eiffel designed a huge, vaulting bridge across the River Truyère in France’s Massif Central. Completed in 1884, the Garabit viaduct on the rail line from Paris to Marseilles jumps the river on a parabolic arch spanning 530 feet. The truss is ingeniously narrow and deep at the crown to support the tracks, but wide and shallow at the abutments to reduce wind resistance.

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