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Understanding the Eiffel Tower, a Marvel of Engineering from the 1800s

Let us understand the history, construction, and mechanics of the "Iron Lady"

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

FRANCE: Eiffel Tower is an engineering marvel, and the fact that a structure was made so tall roughly 130 years ago makes it even more fascinating. Let us understand the history, construction, and mechanics of the “Iron Lady.”

To throw in some stats, the Eiffel Tower is 300 metres tall, and if we count the antenna spire, it stands at a height of 330 meters. which is three times the height of Big Ben.

Purpose of the tower

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The inspiration for the Eiffel tower is drawn from the World Fair Competition in Paris in 1889, in which a challenge was launched to design a tower that would be the tallest structure in the world, stretching 1000 feet into the sky.

Therefore, Gustave Eiffel collected a group of engineers and came up with a plan to design a metal frame structure.


The design 

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The foundation of the tower involved creating 2 m-thick concrete slabs (for a strong base) under each of the tower’s bases and burying them 7 m underground. But, because two of the four bases were boarded on the river seine, engineers were worried water would creep in, so they created a metal shoe structure at the bottom of the bases, which prevented the water from leaking in.

For the next part, engineers constructed the legs of the Eiffel tower. To do so, they needed to make sure that they built them simultaneously, otherwise they could have ended up with the leaning tower of Paris.

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To accomplish this goal, hydraulic jacks under each of the different legs were used for lowering and raising them to make sure that the first floor was completely horizontal.

Now, to construct the final part of the Iron Lady, the main frame (body) of 18,000 different parts was prefabricated in the factory and put together on site using 2.5 million rivets. As the body of the tower grew in size, it was needed to get up there, and this was done with the help of creeper cranes, which ran up the legs of the tower, and interestingly, the guide shafts of the creeper cranes are the ones that are used today in the elevator to zip people up to the top.

Eiffel tower. Photo Credit: Multiple sources.


More facts 

After two years of construction, the tower was completed on March 31st, 1889, and Gustav Eiffel was the first man to climb all 1,710 steps to the top, where he unfurled the French flag. It was fair enough that he was the first man to climb it because he invested tonnes of money in the project.

But, that investment paid off because, from his apartment, he watched around two million tower visitors in the first year alone, which equals a million dollars’ worth of tickets in sales.

The tower initially had several names: “Pylon of 320 meters,” “320-meter tower,” “Tower of Mr. Eiffel,” and finally “THE EIFFEL TOWER” or “LA TOUR EIFFEL.”

In the beginning, Parisians did not like it. They saw it as a bit of an eyesore on the Paris landscape, and some of them also thought it would topple over and crash down on top of their homes.

But, considering this tower was supposed to be dismantled straight after it was built, it lasted very well and was also the tallest structure for 40 years, and now it is a real icon of Paris.

On the first floor, 72 pioneering scientists’ names are inscribed in the tower. The tally includes some famous scientists, including Ampere, Coulomb, Navier, Cauchy, Fourier, and more.

Also Read: Engineer’s Day: Inspiring Quotes from Our Prominent Indian Leaders

Author

  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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