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Advances in engineering continue to push modern skyscrapers to dizzying new heights, but at the core of these structures, quite literally, is an often overlooked technology that’s been key to their proliferation: the elevator.

The earliest known reference to the elevator was by Roman architect Vitruvius, who reported that Archimedes built his first elevator around 236 B.C. The design was fairly rudimentary, a platform using pulleys and hoisted by hand or by animal. While elevators found their way into countless buildings and homes in the centuries that followed, including that of Louis XV who used a private lift to connect his Versailles apartment to that of his mistress, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that their true potential was unlocked.

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