In most multi-story building around the world there exists at least one elevator. Many people everyday use them to travel from one floor to another with ease. The elevator was design to allow buildings to become taller and house more people in smaller areas. This occurred because land was becoming more expensive and limited in city areas. The elevator also allowed for easy and quick transportation of objects over numerous floors. This was particularly useful in the building and mining industries as heavy materials and equipment could be moved with minimal human effort. But is the elevator a reasonably new invention or has it been around for centuries and who invented the elevator?
Who Invented the Elevator?
Elevators in various forms have been in use for centuries in many different civilizations. It is widely believed that elevator type machinery has been in use since the 3rd century BC. Most of these elevators were used to lift heavy materials in a pulley type system. The source of power was human, animals or water wheels. In the 17th century prototypes of elevators powered by human effort were found in palaces in England and France. In 1793 the first screw drive elevator was installed in a building by Ivan Kulibin. In 1850 Henry Waterman invented an elevator similar to what we know as an elevator today to transport barrels of flour. By the Mid 19th Century, steam operated elevators were being used extensively in factories, mines and warehouses but were not considered safe for the transportation of people. That all changed when in 1853, an American inventor named Elisha Otis invented a freight elevator with a safety brake installed to prevent it from falling if the cable should snap. This instilled people with a sense of confidence that the elevator could be used for the safe transportation of passengers. Elisha Otis established an elevator company and patented in 1861 a steam elevator. Seeing the potential for elevators to begin carrying people J.W Meaker patented a method of opening and closing elevator doors safety in 1874. In the early 1870’s hydraulics began to be used to power elevators. The Otis family continued to make improvements to the elevator and patented a number of new ideas in 1903.
The Modern Elevator
The first electric elevator was used towards the end of the 19th century. It was built by a German inventor named Werner Von Siemens in 1880. Frank Sprague is responsible for increasing the safety and speed of these electric elevators. The use of the safety brake system invented by Elisha Otis is still part of the modern elevator design. Today the Otis Elevator company which is part of the United Technologies Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of vertical transport systems.