Rise of the Eiffel Tower, 1887-1889

La tour Eiffel rises above Parisian streets.

La tour Eiffel, the most-visited paid monument in the world, is more than 130 years old. What many people don't know, though, is that Paris' most famous structure was also one of the first major construction projects to have been widely documented via photography.

(High res version of the above image)

Gustave Eiffel's iron-lattice tower, today a quintessential piece of the Parisian skyline, was constructed from 1887 to 1889 in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. It was, at the time, the tallest man-made structure in the world — not to mention among the most photographed. Many of Eiffel's contemporaries detested the tower, calling his design "obnoxious" and "vile." Upon its construction, it was understood that the tower would be disassembled after 20 years.

But the emergence of radio gave Paris a really good reason to keep Eiffel's tower around, as it became an "obnoxious" and "vile" yet totally useful antenna. Yes, video may have killed the radio star, but radio saved the Eiffel Tower. According to World War I historian Barbara Tuchman, a transmitter in the tower jammed German radio communications and helped the Allies emerge victorious in the First Battle of the Marne, in 1914.

In 2010, the tower reached 250 million total visitors since its opening. It has become so iconic that you can hardly think of Paris without images of iron-lattice coming to mind.

Not bad for a structure that was supposed to be scrapped after a couple decades.

Source: Public Domain Archive

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less

In Switzerland, gun ownership is high but mass shootings are low. Why?

In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
  • Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
  • Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.