The Eiffel Tower
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The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be destroyed only 20 years after its construction. To remedy the situation, Gustave Eiffel had the ingenious idea of crediting it with a scientific purpose – the Tower was saved !
The Tower’s Scientific Uses
Experiments with falling bodies
From the presentation of his project in 1886, Gustave Eiffel knew then that only the Tower’s scientific uses could protect it from its adversaries and prolong its lifespan.
Initially, it was supposed to be destroyed after 20 years ! He therefore specified the Tower’s purpose: meteorological and astronomical observations, physics experiments, a strategic vantage point, an optical telegraph communications point, a beacon for electric lighting and wind studies. Gustave Eiffel stated, “It will be for everyone an observatory and a laboratory the likes of which has never before been available to science. It is the reason why, from day one, all of our scientists have encouraged me with their utmost sympathies. Indeed, from 1889, the Eiffel Tower was used as a laboratory of measurements and scientific experiments. Considerable scientific apparatus was installed (barometers, anemometers, lightning conductors etc.). Moreover, Gustave Eiffel set himself an office aside on the third floor to make astronomical and physiological observations.
On the day after the Tower’s very inauguration, Gustave Eiffel installed a meteorology laboratory on the 3rd floor. He also had a passion for aerodynamics and carried out a series of observations on gravity (leading to the installation from 1903 to 1905 of gravity instruments). He imagined “an automatic system that would slide along the length of a cable stretched between the Tower’s 2nd floor and the ground.” He had a wind tunnel built at the foot of the Tower, and from the month of August 1909 to December 1911, he carried out five thousand trials. Additionally, Gustave Eiffel encouraged numerous scientific experiments on the Tower: Foucault’s Pendulum, the mercury pressure gauge, physiological studies and radio contact (1898). In the end, it was be the Tower's role as an enormous antenna that would save it from destruction.
For more information
Find out about the history of radio transmissions from the Eiffel Tower in this section