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Gustave Eiffel : His life
>> The forgotten scientific work
At the beginning of the 1890s, Gustave Eiffel finds himself involved, very unintentionally, with the setbacks of the Panama Canal, for which he had designed the giant locks. Hurt by the groundless accusations he are targeted against him – the press and the politicians are pressing for scapegoats, after the financial collapse of this massive project – and that justice will later fully clear him of, he chooses to sell all his shares and retire from his company. From then on and until his death, Eiffel decides to dedicate himself to scientific research, the results of which he will share free of charge with the rest of the scientific community. The celebrity of his constructions often overshadows the very important influence Gustave Eiffel has had on Science, especially Meteorology and Aerodynamics.
In 1889, he builds a meteorological observatory on top of the Eiffel Tower and undertakes further research throughout France. He also works passionately on the issues of Aerodynamics – Gustave Eiffel has had to fight against the power of the wind in all his constructions – and builds on the Champ de Mars, in 1909, a wind tunnel where are carried out the first tests on the wing designs of aviation pioneers like Wright or Blériot, then later on full air planes designed by Nieuport or Levasseur.
En 1911, Gustave Eiffel leaves the Champ de Mars that is quickly turning into a new residential neighborhood. He builds at 67, rue Boileau, in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris, a much larger and better equipped laboratory, with a 2 meters wide tunnel mouth able to reach speeds of up to 30 meters per seconds. Thanks to that new equipment, he lays down the groundwork of the science of Aerodynamics. The type of wind tunnel created by Eiffel has been copied and reproduced since then all across the world, and it is still used today (including at rue Boileau) to test the aerodynamics of airplanes, cars, buildings, ships, bridges etc.


An extraordinary engineer, a great scientist, a leading “captain of industry”, a patriarchal figure respected by his family, Gustave Eiffel died with all possible honors on December 27th 1923 in Paris in his luxurious residence of 1 rue Rabelais (now destroyed) in the 8th arrondissement. He is buried in the Levallois‐Perret cemetery.