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Famous inventions: The lift

Famous inventions: The liftThe Empire State Building, impressive city skylines - how would we get up there without lifts?

It is hoped that the Dubai Tower, which is currently being built, will become the tallest building in the world. Its final height is being kept a secret but it has been suggested that it will rise to over 800 metres. It would be totally impractical without lifts.

In the olden days

The need for vertical transport is an old one. The traditional answer was a system of ropes and pulleys operated by animal and human power or by water-driven mechanisms. In 1850 steam and hydraulic lifts were introduced but the public was worried about the safety of such devices and they were not popular.

We have lift off

However in 1852 Elisha Graves Otis invented the first safety elevator. The design of the Otis safety elevator is similar to one type still used today. The elevator can never fall down the shaft because rollers lock the elevator to its guides if it starts going down too quickly.

In 1903 Otis introduced the design that would become the "backbone" of the elevator industry. The gearless traction electric elevator, engineered and proven to outlast the building itself. This ushered in the age of high-rise structures, such as New York's Empire State Building and Burj Dubai. It also defined the skyline of all modern cities.