Built to cross one of the steepest valleys along the Douro River, the Ponte Maria Pia was the first major work to emerge from the French firm of Gustav Eiffel and Company, establishing Eiffel as an important bridge designer and civil engineer of his day. Resting on a parabolic arch spanning 160 meters, the Ponte Maria Pia was the longest iron arch bridge in the world at the time of its construction. The bridge's latticework construction reflects the later design of the well-known Eiffel Tower, erected in Paris to commemorate the International Exposition of 1900.
The Eiffel Tower was built for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889 commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution. Of the 700 proposals submitted in a design competition, Gustave Eiffel's was unanimously chosen. At 300 meters and 7,000 tons, it was the world's tallest building until 1930.
The elevators ascend and descend within the curved legs of the tower, starting at an angle of 54 degrees from horizontal at the base and leveling out to 78 degrees at the top. The elevator cars are built with seatbacks that rotate to adjust to the varying angle.
Late in life, the renowned structural engineer Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) embarked on aeronautical research. Reliable data and repeatable research methods were rare in the early 1900s, but Eiffel brought an engineer's discipline to the field. In the process, he produced the most accurate aeronautical data of the time, confirmed a long-held theory about fluid flow that had never been unequivocally proven, and established a laboratory that became a model for future practice.