Elisha Otis is a striking illustration of the axiom "what goes up must come down." Otis started with nothing and ended with nothing, enduring more downs than ups in his short lifetime. Yet he changed the way we live, enabling cities to grow vertically instead of spreading out. He made skyscrapers possible. Now roughly 6.5 billion people -- equivalent to the world population -- ride Otis elevators every three days. Otis was not a financial genius. He was far from a good manager, and his salesmanship was nearly nonexistent. But Otis was the quintessential tinker, a man who loved to get his hands dirty fixing or building things. Born in Halifax, Vt., in 1811, Otis, like Henry Ford and other titanic inventors, had little interest in a farmer's life. Instead, he spent his time in the blacksmith's shed watching the smith work at the red-hot forge.