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Alexandre Gustave Eiffel Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Alexandre Gustave Eiffel passes away in 1923.

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was French engineer.

Eiffel was born Alexandre Gustave Bönickhausen on December 15th, 1832 in Côte-d'Or, France. Eiffel's family name was Bönickhausen, although the family generally used Eiffel. It was not until 1880 that Eiffel officially changed his name from Bönickhausen. Eiffel attended classes at the Lycée Royal and was educated by various family members in a variety of sciences. He was accepted to two notable schools in Paris finally deciding to go with École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures where he graduated with a degree in chemistry.

When Eiffel graduated, family squabbles prevented him from going to work for his uncle as he planned. Eventually he went to work for Charles Nepveu. When Nepveu sold his company, he made sure to find a place for Eiffel at Compagnie Belge de Matériels de Chemin de Fer the company which acquired Nepveu's. Nepveu gave Eiffel his first major project the Bordeaux bridge.

In 1865, Eiffel departed Compagnie Belge de Matériels de Chemin de Fer as the economy had gotten bad and the company was nearing collapse. After leaving the company he became an independent consulting engineer. In 1866 he received a contract from the Egyptian government for Eiffel to oversee the construction of 33 locomotives. The job was high in profit and undemanding. Eiffel was able to travel to Egypt and visit the Suez Canal. Eiffel at the same time did work for the Exposition Universelle of 1867 by designing arch girders. He also conducted experiments to determine the modulous elasticity of cast iron.

In 1866, Eiffel was able to borrow enough money to start his own company. Although he would take on a partner at one point and time and the company would change it's name several times it would remain in existence until well after Eiffel's passing. Eiffel with the company made many innovations in metal construction. They built and designed the Maria Pia Bridge in Portugal which was the first of it's kind. Instead of pylons going into the river bed, the bridge was supported by a massive iron arch that spanned 520ft.

In 1881, Eiffel was called in to assist in the building of the Statue of Liberty. He helped to create an inner framework which supported the outer copper. The statue was erected at Eiffel's ironworks in Paris before it was disassembled and shipped to the United States.

In 1886, Eiffel was given a contract for Astronomical Observatory in Nice. In it's construction they were able to set the some in a track that floated on magnesium chloride in water. The dome was the largest at the time.

In 1884, preparations were underway for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Eiffel had been approached with a design for what would become known as the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel was unimpressed with the plans. It was until another architect added to the existing design that Eiffel decided that he would be interested in the plans. He bought out the patents for the design and made his bid to have the tower the center piece of the Exposition Universelle. There were several competitors for the distinction of being the centerpiece. A change was made to the requirements for the competition which made Eiffel's plan the only one that would fulfill all requirements. Although many were impressed with the design, many felt that the tower was going to detract from the monuments that already existed around Paris. The Eiffel Tower was only expected to last for 20 years and somewhat ironically has become a symbol of Paris. Later Eiffel, who formed a company to manage the tower put weather monitoring stations and used the tower for experiments involving air currents.

In 1888, Eiffel was contracted to work on a French Panama Canal. Unfortunately the company that contracted with Eiffel was discovered to be misusing funds intended for the project. Despite the fact that Eiffel was a contractor and was not involved in those dealings, he was accused as well. He was convicted initially and later acquitted on appeal.

Eiffel passed away December 27th, 1923.

Despite anecdotal indications to the contrary, there is no evidence that Eiffel was ever a Freemason. Being a prominent well connected individual is generally why people want to put him as a member of the fraternity. It is also possibly because of his connection with the Statue of Liberty.