Man Lifter
   The Pneumatic Man-Lifter from Middlebury College at the left below is ambitiously named; the apparatus is only 3 ft high. Even the drawing of the apparatus in use at the right gives a false impression of the size of the apparatus, but the basic idea of lifting a heavy weight by exhausting a cylinder and letting the atmosphere exert a large force on the exposed face of the piston is appealing and somewhat startling. The simple geometry permits students to do an easy calculation to predict the ultimate load that may be lifted. The apparatus was made by E. S. Ritchie and is listed at $10.00 in the 1860 Ritchie catalogue.
   In January 2003 I found the demonstration at the right in one of the preparation rooms of the University of Texas at Austin. The unmarked apparatus has a cylinder and piston about five inches in diameter, which seems to be large enough to lift the enormous mass attached to the bottom of the piston. 
   This is a good example of a mid-nineteenth century demonstration that is still in use 150 years later. The actual apparatus probably dates from the beginning of the 20th century, as the University of Texas opened in 1890.
 Return to Pneumatics Home Page | Return to Home Page