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Gustave Eiffel : His life
>> Gustave’s youth


Gustave Eiffel was born on December 15th 1832 in Dijon, France. His father, François Alexandre Boenickhausen, known as « Eiffel », was a former hussar from Napoleon’s armies. But the figurehead of the family was certainly his mother, Catherine Mélanie Moneuse. Daughter of a timber tradesman, she had the idea very early on to start trading coal. Her small business grew quickly thanks to the ongoing industrial revolution, so much so that her husband quit his activities to assist her.

With his parents working constantly, the boy was raised for the most part by his maternal grandmother, a blind and sour tempered old women, who didn’t hesitate to hit him with her stick. Gustave won’t hold it against her – later writing that: « the pour woman didn’t strike that hard » – nor will he against his mother, Catherine, for whom he’ll always have the greatest respect. In return, the selfmade woman was her son’s unfailing supporter, and acted as his first and most trusted advisor.
In 1852, Gustave passed the exams of the École Centrale. He chose to specialize in Chemistry, in order to take over the company of his uncle Jean‐Baptiste Mollerat, a chemist and entrepreneur, and another important tutelary figure from his youth. A lasting quarrel between Gustave’s father, strongly pro‐Bonapartist, and the old man, a fervent republican, brutally put an end to that plan. Gustave Eiffel then turned to metalwork and started working in 1856 for Charles Nepveu, an engineer for railway companies.