Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, engineer. 1832 - 1923
Yes, he designed the Eiffel Tower, big deal. Of course, that wasn't his only project, just his best-known.
Born in Dijon 15th December 1832, he graduated in 1855 from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, and began his career at a firm specialising in railway equipment. He quickly made a name for himself as a specialist in wrought iron construction, notably bridges and viaducts, and began his own business as an engineering consultant in the late 1850s.
He designed, built and directed many edifices apart from his most famous work, La Tour Eiffel, which he designed for the 1889 World Expo. For example, he directed the erection of an iron bridge at Bordeaux in 1858, and the Gallery of Machines for the Paris Exhibition of 1867. His other notable bridges include his construction of a 525 foot bridge over the River Douro at Opporto in 1877 and a 540 foot viaduct over the Truyère River in southern France.
His imaginative designs were eclipsed only by his technical innovation - he pioneered the use of compressed air caissons to simplify the construction of bridges, and hydraulic rams as foundation supports (as he did on the Eiffel Tower). Other well-known designs include the observatory dome at Nice and the framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York. A recent visit to Budapest showed his work there too - the MacDonalds next to Nyugati railway station is magnificent, and seems to have spawned many other grand designs nearby.
During the construction of the famous Tower, he became interested in problems of aerodynamics, and he used the tower for a number of experiments, later building the world's first aerodynamics laboratory at Auteuil, where he conducted much research in this (then) brand new field throughout World War I.
Late in life, he was named in a financial scandal involving Ferdinand de Lesseps and others, regarding a failed Panama Canal project (although he was not involved). He died in Paris on December 28th, 1923.