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B.Sc( Engg.), MIE, MIWWA, MICI
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Elisha Graves Otis: Inventor  of Safety Elevators ( Lift )

Biography | Inventions


Can we think of a building like Burj Khalifa, World’s tallest building without safety elevator?. We can’t even think about a building with 3 to 5 stories without a safety elevator. Today let us talk about the person who is behind the invention of safety elevators,  Mr. Elisha Graves Otis.

The first elevator designed for a passenger was built in 1743 for King Louis XV at his palace in France. The one-person contraption went up only one floor, from the first to the second. Known as the "Flying Chair," it was on the outside of the building, and was entered by the king via his balcony. The mechanism consisted of a carefully balanced arrangement of weights and pulleys hanging inside a chimney. Men stationed inside the chimney then raised or lowered the Flying Chair at the king's command. 

But these systems were difficult to operate and were dangerous. If the rope or cable is broken, then there may be accident  and there was chances of losing the lives of people operating  and people using the lift.

By 1850 steam and hydraulic elevators had been introduced, but it was in 1852 that the landmark event in elevator history occurred: the invention of the world's first safety elevator by Elisha Graves Otis.

Elisha Otis was born in the year 1811 , near Halifax, Vermont, where his father was for many years a justice of the peace and a state legislator. He received a common education in his hometown and at the age of 19 moved to Troy, New York, where he went into the construction trade

Elisha Graves Otis suffered from ill health throughout his life, also affecting his early attempts at establishing a business. In 1845 he moved to Albany, New York, where he worked as a master mechanic in the Tingley Bedstead Company. While there, he invented a railway safety brake and other devices to improve the running of turbine wheels.

In 1852 he moved to Yonkers, New York, to organize and install machinery for another bed-stead company, which required the use of a hoist to transport equipment to the factory floor. Otis became concerned with the equipment's safety problem and devised a pair of spring-loaded pieces of metal that would engage into the cog shaped rail if the rope gave way. So successful was the device that Otis soon received three unsolicited orders for similar systems.

Otis set up a small elevator shop in Yonkers in 1853, selling only a few for hoisting freight. To increase sales, Otis dramatically demonstrated his elevator during an exhibition at the Crystal Palace in New York City in 1854, riding in the cab high above onlookers and then having the cable cut. This did attract attention, and in 1857 Otis installed the first passenger safety elevator in a New York department store, and later his passenger elevator made the skyscraper feasible. Just before his death, Otis patented a steam-driven elevator, which was the basis for what became the Otis Elevator Company, run by Otis's two sons, Charles and Norton. Among other devices Otis patented were railroad car brakes (1852), a steam plow (1857), and a bake oven (1858).

Now ,Otis is part of United Technologies Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and world leader in the building systems and aerospace industries. With 1.7 million Otis elevators and 110,000 escalators in operation, Otis touches the lives of people in more than 200 countries around the world


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