Fulgence Bienvenüe

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Bronze head of Bienvenüe at Uzel, his home town, with label calling him Father of the Métro
Bienvenüe standing at the entrance to Monceau station

Fulgence Bienvenüe (27 January 1852 – 3 August 1936) was a noted French civil engineer, best known for his role in the construction of the Paris Métro, and has been called "Le Père du Métro" (Father of the Metro).[1]:162

A native of Uzel in Brittany, and the son of a notary, in 1872 Bienvenüe graduated from the École Polytechnique as a civil engineer[1]:150 and the same year he began working for the Department of Bridges and Roads at Alencon.[1]:150 His first assignment was the construction of new railway lines in the Mayenne area, in the course of which his left arm had to be amputated after being crushed in a construction accident.

In 1886, Bienvenüe moved on to Paris to design and supervise the construction of aqueducts for the city, drawing water from the Aube and Loire Rivers.[1]:151 Next, he built a cable railway near the Place de la Republique and created the park of Buttes-Chaumont.[1]:151 In 1891, he was appointed as Engineer-in-Chief for Bridges and Roads, the most prestigious engineering job in France.[1]:151

Paris city officials selected Bienvenüe to become chief engineer for the Paris Métro in 1896. He designed a special way of building new tunnels which allowed the swift repaving of the roads above; this involved (among other things) building the crown of the tunnel first and the floor last, the reverse of the usual method at that time.[1]:151, 162 Bienvenüe has the credit for the mostly swift and relatively uneventful construction of the Métro through the difficult and heterogenous Parisian soils and rocks.[1]:150–1, 162 He came up with the idea of freezing wet and unstable soil in order to permit the drilling of tunnels. He was to supervise the Paris Metro construction for more than three decades, finally retiring on 6 December 1932.

Bienvenüe's construction of the Métro was widely praised and has been described admiringly as a work "worthy of the Romans".[1]:160, 162 He eventually accumulated many honors for his engineering accomplishments, including the Grand Prix Berger of the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1909) and the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (1929).[1]:160

On 30 June 1933, the Avenue du Maine station on the Metro was renamed Bienvenüe in his honor. The naming ceremony took place in his presence; there was a last-minute scramble to repaint the station's new nameboards when it was discovered that the unusual diaeresis in his name had been omitted, making it the French word for "welcome". In 1942 the station was linked to the adjacent Montparnasse station, forming a single station named Montparnasse-Bienvenüe.

Following his death in 1936, Bienvenüe was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

A high school in Cotes-d'Armor commune in Brittany is named after Bienvenüe, the Lycee Fulgence Bienvenüe de Loudeac, which is part of the l'Academie de Rennes.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Bindi, A.; Lefeuvre, D. (1990). Le Métro de Paris: Histoire d'hier à demain (in French). Rennes: Ouest-France. ISBN 2-7373-0204-8. 
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bobrick, Benson (1981). Labyrinths of Iron: A History of the World's Subways. New York: Newsweek Books. 
  2. ^ http://www.lycee-fulgence-bienvenue-loudeac.ac-rennes.fr/