Eiffel's Tower

Paris' most famous landmark is one of the world's great attractions, but the plans to build it raised a storm of protest at the time.

Under construction: the Eiffel tower in May 1888Without doubt, the 19th century was the heyday of great engineering works. It was an age when technical progress at last permitted the realisation of dreams, some of them centuries old: tunnelling beneath rivers and mountains, creating short cuts across the isthmuses between seas and oceans, or raising bridges across rivers and estuaries. A few undertakings, like the tunnel under the Channel, foundered on deeply ingrained prejudices; others ended in disaster (the Tay Bridge) or scandal (the Panama affair), because of miscalculations and embezzlement. Yet the achievements far outweighed the failures, as witnessed by Ferdinand de Lesseps and Gustave Eiffel, whose reputations were not lastingly affected by the Panama scandal, in which both of them were involved. The name of the first is indissolubly linked to the Suez Canal, that of the second to the 1,000-foot tower that was to be his most spectacular achievement.

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