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Fascinating facts about Henry Bessemer inventor of a process for the manufacture of steel, the Bessemer converter in 1855.

Henry Bessemer
AT A GLANCE:
The process of refining molten iron with blasts of air was accomplished by the British inventor Sir Henry Bessemer who developed the Bessemer furnace, or converter, in 1855. He was a prolific inventor, but is best known for his process for the manufacture of steel.  Modern steel-making employs blast furnaces that are merely refinements of the furnaces used by the old ironworkers.
THE STORY
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HOW IT WORKS
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Inventor: Sir Henry Bessemer
Henry Bessemer photo courtesy University of Rochester
Criteria; First to invent. Modern prototype.
Birth: January 18, 1813 in Charlton, Hertfordshire, England
Death: March 15, 1898 in London, England
Nationality: British
Invention: Bessemer converter, or furnace
Bessemer Converter photo courtesy Kelham Island Museum
Function: noun / furnace named after its Inventor
Definition: Modern steel-making employs blast furnaces that are merely refinements of the furnaces used by the old ironworkers. This process of refining molten iron with blasts of air was accomplished by the Bessemer furnace, or converter.
Patent: 16,082 (US) issued Nov.11, 1856 - Manufacture of Iron and Steel
Milestones:
CAPS: Bessemer, Henry Bessemer, Sir Henry Bessemer, William Kelly, Alexander Holley, Andrew Carnegie, ARYS, Bessemer furnace, Bessemer converter, Bessemer process, steel making, blast furnace, SIPS, history, biography, inventor, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
 

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Young Inventors, A Class Act   from The Great Idea Finder
Andrew Carnegie,Biography   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Henry Bessemer: Making Steel From Iron 
by Kathleen Tracy / Library Binding: 48 pages  / Mitchell Lane Publishers (December 5, 2005)
The Bessemer process, a method to cheaply produce steel out of iron. Steel's light weight and strength made it the perfect building material for everything from buildings to railroad tracks. This is the story of how a quiet, unschooled young man became one of the greatest inventors of the 19th century


ON THE SCREEN:
American Steel, Built to Last
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
Its roots go back to the Ancient Egyptians, whose iron weapons helped maintain an empire that lasted three millennia. But in the 1850s, Englishmen Henry Bessemer invented a process that turned iron into steel, and the world was changed forever. It became the foundation of the corporate empires of Carnegie and Morgan; skyscrapers with skeletons of steel scraped the heavens; steel rails, trains, ships, planes, and automobiles built a transportation network unmatched in the world.


ON THE WEB:

Sir Henry Bessemer Autobiography
It is an interesting fact that the statistics published by the Annales des Mines for 1893 shows that it would take more than three years' production of all the gold mines in the world to pay in gold for one year's production of Bessemer steel. HTML version produced by Eric Hutton .
Henry Bessemer, Man of Steel
Learn about some of Bessemer's other inventions.
Kelham Island Museum
The Bessemer Converter at Kelham Island Museum is one of only three converters left in the world. It was used by the British Steel Corporation in Workington until 1975, and was brought to the Museum in 1978 as an example of the revolutionary steelmaking process which first took off in Sheffield. 
The Bessemer Process
From the American Experience series at PBS.
Historic Figures
Bessemer's process was ten times faster than the previous methods and used no fuel once the charge had been melted. It could make thirty tons at once, rather than fifty pounds. From tech BBC.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Henry Bessemer, Born Jan 19 1813 - Died Mar 15 1898, Manufacture of Iron and Steel Patent Number 16,082
American Iron and Steel Institute
American Iron and Steel Institute's mission is to promote steel as the material of choice and to enhance the competitiveness of the North American steel industry and its member companies
Alexander Holley Biography
In 1863, however, he purchased the U.S. rights to the Bessemer process for manufacturing steel and soon pursued steel manufacturing almost to the exclusion of all his many interests. In 1865, he built the first U.S. plant employing the Bessemer process in Troy, N.Y., followed by one in Harrisburg, Pa.
Encyclopaedia Britannica
inventor and engineer who developed the first process for manufacturing steel inexpensively, leading to the development of the Bessemer converter.
Steel City Founders
In 1856, Henry Bessemer introduced a new method of producing steel, using a special furnace called a converter. This development followed work done in Kentucky USA, by William Kelly.  
Bessemer Patents
Henry Bessemer was a prolific inventor. See a complete listing of the patents issued to  him.  It will be noticed that the patents chiefly refer to four main subjects: The manufacture of glass, the manufacture of iron and steel, improvements in ordnance, and the manufacture of sugar.

WORDS OF WISDOM:
"I had an immense advantage over many others dealing with the problem inasmuch as I had no fixed ideas derived from long-established practice to control and bias my mind, and did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is, is right." - Sir Henry Bessemer

HOW IT WORKS:
Bessemer Process
The principle involved is that of oxidation of the impurities in the iron by the oxygen of air that is blown through the molten iron; the heat of oxidation raises the temperature of the mass and keeps it molten during operation.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • During the Crimean War Bessemer invented a new type of artillery shell.
  • Bessemer made his first fortune selling "gold" powder made from brass as a paint additive.
  • Bessemer demonstrated considerable mechanical skill and inventiveness early in life.
  • Among the many honors of Bessemer’s life were a Knighthood by the British crown and the Fellowship of the Royal Society.
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Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised May 15, 2006.
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