Eiffel Tower Usefulness

Gustave Eiffel did use his creation for aerodynamic research after the exposition was over. He was one of the first to conduct experiments in that new field, to try to establish which shapes and profiles could go through the air with the least resistance. By sliding various shaped carvings down wires from the second level platform to the ground he began the research that ultimately led to building wind tunnels where more instruments could be installed.

See “A History of Aerodynamics” by John D Anderson, Cambridge University Press, 1999. A Goggle books excerpt is here: http://books.google.com/books?id=1OeCJFJY3ZYC&pg=PA268&lpg=PA268&dq=eiffel+tower+aerodynamics&source=bl&ots=WfJy5Y3wGn&sig=ZH-8YMWRuY9aAU7SbkQGPu84Cpo&hl=en&ei=6v5LTe-7J8L6lwetwaT4Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&sqi=2&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=eiffel%20tower%20aerodynamics&f=false

Does this pertain to any of Cecil’s columns?
Powers &8^]

Yes - The Straight Dope: What is the Eiffel Tower, Actually?

It used to be referred to as “the unfortunate lamp post”.:eek:

Everybody knows it was built for a Citroen Ad.
http://www.ausmotive.com/images/Citroen-C3-Eiffel-02.jpg :smiley:

furryman, tell me that’s a Photoshop. PLEASE tell me that! It’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time! :eek: :frowning:

That’s not a photoshop, it was a real advertisment - looks like furryman linked to the Wiki image, so I’ll just append the associated text “The Eiffel Tower served as a billboard for Citroën from 1925 to 1934.”

The actual construction of the tower was a work of genius, especially for that time. All four legs of the tower had to be erected and somehow kept in place and at the same elevation. Then the first platform had to be set in place and bolted/welded. Eiffel accomplished this (as I recall) by setting the legs in sand and removing the sand to allow the legs to meet with the platform. Very touchy business.

The paragraph about tall buildings being defined as having “habitable space” failed to mention that Gustav Eifel had an entire floor, just below the observation deck as his private apartment and laboratory, in which he lived the remainder of his life. Perhaps not enough to qualify the tower as a “building,” since the space is now a museum.
Incidentally, the original reply mentioned “welding.” When originally built, the Eifel Tower used rivets exclusively.

It was also used to test early parachutes and perform other “what would happen if we dropped this from a high place?” type experiments with permission of the Paris police. Somedid well. Othersdidn’t do so well. Coincidentally one of the first successful US parachute jumps was from the other structure mentioned in the column for not being very useful for its grandiosity: the Statue of Liberty.

I think that it would be worthwhile to mention that during the years 1880 to 1890 there were four interesting buildings (or structures or something) finished. The first was Cologne Cathedral, which finished in 1880. The building of it started in 1248, but it didn’t finish to 1880 and at that point it became the tallest building in the world. Ulm Minister, which was started in 1377, was finished in 1890 and became (and remains) the tallest church ever built. It would have become the tallest building ever built, but there were two buildings finished between 1880 and 1890 that were completely different from anything previously built.

One was the Eiffel Tower, finished in 1889. The other was the Washington Monument, which passed Cologne Cathedral in 1884. I think that the Washington Monument is the weirdest building ever built. Remember that this decade was just before the age of skyscrapers. The Eiffel Tower is weird enough in itself, since it’s essentially the steel understructure of a skyscraper with nothing covering it. The Washington Monument is the tallest building ever built without a steel understructure inside it. (There’s a steel understructure that supports the elevator in it but not the Monument itself.) And nobody is ever going to be crazy enough to ever build another like it that’s taller. The whole idea of it is weird. It’s build on the model of an Egyptian obelisk, but it’s ten times as large as any Egyptian obelisk. It is in the middle of a city with no tall skyscrapers at all, so it really sticks out.

I suspect that someone is going to quibble about what is a building or a structure or whatever. Look, none of these building have people living in them. None of them is really similar to a tall apartment or office building.

The book to read is Eiffel’s Tower: And the World’s Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count, by Jill Jonnes.

It covers the amazing process of designing and constructing something the world had never seen, something that almost everybody thought literally could not be built. The details are wonderful history. Did you know that the Tower, like almost all buildings associated with World’s Fairs, was never intended to be permanent? They planned to tear it down after 20 years. A committee was formed. They did what committees do best. Stall and dither. In time radio made the Tower too important to lose and thought of ripping it down never surfaced seriously again.

The book as a whole isn’t up to wonderful level because it tries to cover too many other things (as the title indicates) and doesn’t do as well on those. I like her other books, Empires of Light and Conquering Gotham, better. But parts of it are very good.

Oops. Somehow I missed that 20 year sentence in Cecil’s column. Just concentrate on the committee addendum.

I recently bought this book at a museum shop. (As the link shows, it’s also available at Amazon.)

It’s a large book that contains reproductions of the actual engineering blueprints created by Eiffel and his workers for the tower. Hundreds and hundreds of drawings, from overviews of the whole structure to details of the smallest connections.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, it’s absolutely fascinating.

When I was a little girl, I rode horses in a field with long distance power line gantries crossing it. I always wondered why France had just one.

At the time the Washington Monument was designed, when the United States was in the throes of rapturous neoclassicism (England and France talked of ancient Greece and Rome, but we, we knew in our bones that we were the new Romans), obelisks were the height of cool. But various scandals and delays, amounting to two full generations, had put obelisks well over the horizon of fashion by the time it was finished, and would probably seem far more grotesque to us than it does if it did not have the good fortune to be the World Famous Washington (Father of his Country) Monument.

Iron, isn’t it?


I will attest, having climbed the Eiffel Tower many a time, that the iron structure is very stable even in very high winds. It just does not seem to flex of move at all, like one might expect a steel structure to do.

Unless you’re Seth McFarlane making a joke about the “Obama Monument” :slight_smile: