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The Cover
July 5, 2000

Champs de Mars: The Red Tower

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(1):14. doi:10.1001/jama.284.1.14

When the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris in 1889, it was the centerpiece of the Exposition Universelle, an international fair commemorating the centennial of the French Revolution. It, in turn, ushered in a revolution of its own: one in architecture. Soaring more than a thousand feet above the Seine, the Tower offered views of Paris hitherto granted only to balloonists. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world and retained that title for more than 40 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City topped it in 1930. Visitors could reach the top by climbing its 1665 steps or by riding in specially designed glass cages that curved inward along the massive, yet graceful, lattice-work pillars. The wrought iron alone weighed some 7300 tons; its 18,000 separate pieces were held together by more than 2½ million rivets. The Tower was built by a French civil engineer and bridge builder, Gustave Eiffel, whose plan had been chosen by the French government from more than a hundred submissions. (Earlier, Eiffel had helped design the framework for the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor; he was also responsible for France's highest bridge at that time.) The Eiffel Tower was the technological marvel of its age, a perfect marriage of art and science; it became a symbol for the modernity sweeping all aspects of life in fin-de-siècle Europe.