History of elevators


History of elevators

Ancient times

In the past the higher floors of buildings were allocated to janitors and servants due to the reason that they are very inconvenient to reach. This is because people had to use stairs to climb with lots of effort. For instance imagine climbing the 23rd floor of a building using stairs. 

But today because of the elevators it has been made possible to reach even more floors effortlessly and more safely. For instance the tallest building in the world today , The  Burj Khalifa has 160 floors. Imagine having stairs instead of elevators, climbing the top floor won’t even be possible for average human being.

The earliest known invention of an elevator is by Archimedes the Ancient Greek mathematician around 235BC. His design was a wooden platform hung by ropes. This was used for transporting water and building materials. This was operated by people or animals.

Archimedes Thoughtful by Domenico Fetti (1620)

There are records of the ancient Coliseum having 24 elevators to transport lions. It is said that the doors of each 24 opened simultaneously to release the Lions in to the arena.

The model of an elevator at Colosseum
The Colosseum or Coliseum by Alessandroferri

Modern times

Development of the modern time elevators began in 1800’s. First generation of the elevators was steam powered. Then they slowly evolved in to hydraulics. The first passenger elevator was introduced in 1857 by Elisha Otis. The founder of the Otis Elevator company. This was used in a department store of New York (Haughwout Building in New York City).

Haughwout Building in New York City
Elisha Otis

Electric Elevator

In 1880 the electric elevator was invented by German inventor Wener Von Siemens. In 1889, the first commercially successful electric elevator was installed.

Wener Von Siemens
Demonstratino of the electric elevator

Photo credits – siemens.com

Automatic Doors

Alexander Miles patented an elevator with automatic closing doors on October 11, 1887. This elevator had a mechanism to automatically close the doors when the elevator is not on a floor and is moving. Before this there were several reported accidents regarding people falling down because of, forgetting to close shaft doors. So this became a milestone when considering elevator safety.

Alexander Miles

Earlier days, people were anxious to travel in modern type elevators. This is specially because of the enclosed space when the doors are closed. As a solution hotels, offices etc… used to play music inside elevators to calm down the users. Even today this method is used in some elevators. Then mirrors were used to make the elevator look more spacious and avoid claustrophobia. Mirrors also kept people bit busy ( by staring at it and assessing themselves etc…) to make the journey feel shorter.

Today over 325000000 people travel in elevators daily (worldwide). average person travel 4 times a day. Elevators have become more safer than escalators today. It is said that chances of an elevator getting stuck is 1 in 5000. Even if an elevator gets stuck between floors the people inside won’t get suffocated as most people think. The elevator is not an airtight compartment. However if you get stuck in an elevator you should calm down and use the emergency alarms, and then wait for the rescue crews to save you. Trying to escape yourself may be very dangerous.

Most modern day elevators run outside the buildings in a way that users can see outside for viewing pleasure, and the elevator also can be seen from outside the building. So if anything is wrong with an elevator (ex – Stuck) , it can be easily detected from outside. The rescues also can be done more conveniently.

outdoor lift
Outdoor elevators

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