Andrew Ryan first began construction of Rapture in 1946. Using his own private steam-liner, the Olympian, he transported building supplies to the coordinates where the city would be built, roughly 63° 2' N, 29° 55' W, in the North Atlantic ocean. A building platform, nicknamed "the Sinker", was lowered from the Olympian to bring the supplies and crewmen to the seafloor where it was permanently moored at the bottom.
The city was primarily designed by the architectural firm Wales & Wales, and the art-deco metropolis was meant to be the ideal utopia, where art, industry, and science would thrive undisturbed by interventions from governments and other social agencies. Rapture was designed to be entirely self-supporting, with all of its electricity, food production, water purification and defense systems powered by undersea volcanic vents. People from around the world emigrated to the hidden city during the time period of 1946 to 1952, sparking conspiracy theories on the surface about mass disappearances, termed "The Vanishing." Rapture's population numbered several thousand at its peak during the early 1950's and was composed of those people Ryan viewed as the "best examples" of mankind.
Unfortunately, the city did not plan accommodations for the large number of workers who had labored to construct it. While the artistic and scientific elite from around the world emigrated to fill the metropolis, these workers were left in leaking, crowded, "temporary" housing in Pauper's Drop. This stark contrast between the poor and the intellectual upper crust was mostly ignored by Ryan and his City Council. However, Ryan did listen to advice that the citizens were becoming anxious from the isolation of the city and the lack of sun. Thus he hired Sofia Lamb, a renowned psychiatrist on the surface, and invited her down to Rapture to help individuals cope with life under the ocean. Lamb's utilitarian beliefs largely clashed with the free market ideal of Rapture, and she devoted much of her efforts to the poorer citizens. In this way she became a significant political rival of Ryan.
During this same time period, between 1949 and 1951, Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum happened to be passing through the docks in Neptune's Bounty, and noticed that an individual whose hands had been paralyzed in the war was playing catch. After inquiring as to the reason behind the revival of his hands, she was told that the man had been bitten by a sea slug. Tenenbaum then asked the man for the slug, knowing that she had discovered something amazing, and began to search for a benefactor who would fund her research.
Tenenbaum was scoffed at by all of the other scientists in Rapture, until she approached Frank Fontaine, a businessman with a distinguished name in Neptune's Bounty. He agreed to fund Tenenbaum's research and development as long as he was able to profit from the findings in the end. He funded her research using the fortune he had acquired from his smuggling ring, bringing contraband items from the surface down to Rapture. Tenenbaum's research quickly began taking off. She discovered that a substance the sea slugs secreted behaved like stem cells, and that by using it she could manipulate DNA entirely. She was able to "bend the double-helix", cure diseases, and give organisms amazing powers. The substance was thought to be a "rebirth" for humanity, and it was dubbed "ADAM".
Shortly after the discovery of ADAM the scientists made another breakthrough: If the slug was implanted into a host, it would produce twenty to thirty times the original amount of ADAM. Presumably they tried to insert the slug into the stomachs of various other test subjects, but only one type of subject seemed to work well with the slug: young girls. After this discovery, they started to implant the slugs into little girls, but they needed a ready supply of hosts if they were going to mass produce ADAM as Fontaine wanted. Taking inspiration from Sofia Lamb's earlier charity work, Fontaine set up the "Little Sisters Orphanage," advertising it as a place where financially pressed families could send their little girls for care and schooling. The transformed girls eventually came to be known by the orphanage name.
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