Do You Know Who Invented the Elevator

Date:2015-12-23

Our lives become increasingly dependent on elevators, especially people living in high-rise elevator to our lives and work to bring a great convenience, but you know who invented the lift it?

Although elevators may seem like a modern invention, devices used to transport people or goods vertically have been around for thousands of years. According to the writings of Vitruvius, the Greek mathematician Archimedes created a primitive elevator in 236 B.C. that was operated by hoisting ropes wound around a drum and rotated by manpower applied to a capstan. In ancient Rome, a subterranean complex of rooms, animal pens and tunnels stood beneath the Colosseum. At various intervals, elevators powered by hundreds of men using winches and counterweights brought gladiators and large animals up through vertical shafts into the arena for battle.

As for the dedicated passenger elevator, this was created in the 18th century, with one of the first used by King Louis XV in 1743. He had an elevator constructed at Versailles that would carry him from his apartments on the first floor to his mistress’ apartments on the second floor. This elevator wasn’t much more technologically advanced than those used in Rome. To make it work, men stationed in a chimney pulled on the ropes. They called it a “flying chair.”

It wasn’t until the 1800s that elevator technology really started to advance. For starters, elevators no longer needed to be worked manually. In 1823, two British architects—Burton and Hormer—built a steam-powered “ascending room” to take tourists up to a platform for a view of London. Several years later, their invention was expanded upon by architects Frost and Stutt who added a belt and counter-weight to the steam power.

Soon enough, hydraulic systems began to be created as well, using water pressure to raise and lower the elevator car. However, this wasn’t practical in some cases—pits had to be dug below the elevator shaft to enable the piston to pull back. The higher the elevator went, the deeper the pit had to be. Thus, this wasn’t a viable option for taller buildings in big cities.

So despite the hydraulic systems being somewhat safer than steam-powered/cabled elevators, the steam powered ones with cables and counterweights, stuck around. They had just one major drawback: the cables could snap, and sometimes did, which sent the elevator plummeting to the bottom of the shaft, killing passengers and damaging building materials or other items being transported. Needless to say, no one was jumping to get on these dangerous elevators and so passenger elevators up to this point were largely a novelty.

The man who solved the elevator safety problem, making skyscrapers possible, was Elisha Otis, who is generally known as the inventor of the modern elevator. In 1852, Otis came up with a design that had a safety “brake.” In the event that the cables broke, a wooden frame at the top of the elevator car would snap out and hit the walls of the shaft, stopping the elevator in its tracks.

Otis himself demonstrated the device, which he called a “safety hoist,” at the New York World’s Fair in 1854, when he went up in a make-shift elevator himself and had the ropes cut. Rather than plummeting to his death as the audience thought might happen, his safety hoist snapped out, catching the elevator within seconds. Needless to say, the crowd was impressed.

Otis went on to found his own elevator company, which installed the first public elevator in a New York building in 1874. The Otis Elevator Company is still known today as the world’s largest elevator manufacturer.

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