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Who Invented the Elevator?

Published by Keerthana in History
August 31st, 2008

An elevator, or lift, is a mechanical device that carries passengers or freight. It raises or lowers them to the desired height. Several high rise buildings have elevators installed in them in order that people can go to the different floors without much trouble and pain of climbing a series of staircases.

A set of lifts in the lower level of a London Underground station

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The modern elevator was not made in a single day by one particular person. In fact been developed down the centuries. The use of lifts to carry loads was known during the early Roman days. It was mechanically operated during those days. Vitruvius Pollio, the Roman architect of the 1st century, has described the use of lifts, which used pulleys and capstans. These platforms were hoisted with the help of man, animal or water power.

Years later in 1800 AD, the lifts began to be operated with the newly found steam power. By the 19th century, an even more reliable method was employed. The hydraulic lift was introduced. It had more power and could lift heavier loads and to greater heights. However these different forms of lifts were still not safe enough for people to be transported.

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Glass elevator installations are common in modern architecture

Elisha Otis’ elevator patent drawing

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In 1852 US inventor, Elisha Graves Otis, developed the elevator. It was the first passenger safety elevator. It was finally installed in 1857 in the Haughwout Department store in New York in city. It was powered by stream and was able to climb five floors in less than a minute.

The next thirty years saw a lot of progress in its design. The elevator was operated by a hydraulic lift, which made it even faster. By 1894 the elevator began to be run on electricity. Push button system was introduced. Improvements were made in safety, speed and height. Speeds increased to 365m per minute. Gradually the elevator was made more convenient and more economical.

Double deck glass elevator

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Elevator operators used to work the controls and the gates form within the cab. By the 1950s elevators with automatic operations were introduced. This did away with the lift operators. With progress in the design and speed of the elevators the skyline of the cities also began to change. Elevators permitted the development of skyscrapers.

A residential elevator in Singapore

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In modern times elevators are used for a variety of purposes. Not only are they used for passenger and operations, they are also used lifting freight in ships and for construction operations. They are also used in dams and rocket launches. There are several safety devices in them too. The Eiffel Tower of Paris was the first one to have a transparent see-through elevator. Now several buildings have installed them so that the passengers can enjoy the scenery as they go up or down.

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Liked it
  1. Liane Schmidt
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Interesting, fun article! Keep up the nice work!

    Best wishes.


    -Liane Schmidt.

  2. swapna
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    thanks liane, thanks for reading and commenting….

  3. Anurag Ghosh
    Posted September 19, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Great Pics….

    good article………..

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