Skyscrapers, as we know them today, have only been possible for around 200 years. Large buildings are nothing new – the Egyptian pyramids, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Tower of Babel are all amazing, tall structures that show how creative mankind can be and how, throughout history, we have been able to fight against the forces of nature and physics.
Skyscrapers, however, are special because they are so tall and yet so narrow. The ancient Egyptians were able to build tall pyramids because they made the bases of the pyramids so broad, and the tips of the buildings were narrower, allowing the weight to spread out across the base.
When American architects attempted to build tall structures in the late 19th century, they soon discovered that the masonry of the day simply wasn’t strong enough to support buildings that were more than seven stories tall. That all changed when Henry Bessemer came up with a technique for mass-producing steel which could be used to support bigger structures.