Bessemer, Sir Henry

SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy
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b. 19 January 1813 Charlton (near Hitchin), Hertfordshire, England
d. 15 January 1898 Denmark Hill, London, England
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English inventor of the Bessemer steelmaking process.
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The most valuable part of Bessemer's education took place in the workshop of his inventor father. At the age of only 17 he went to London to seek his fortune and set himself up in the trade of casting art works in white metal. He went on to the embossing of metals and other materials and this led to his first major invention, whereby a date was incorporated in the die for embossing seals, thus preventing the wholesale forgeries that had previously been committed. For this, a grateful Government promised Bessemer a paid position, a promise that was never kept; recognition came only in 1879 with a belated knighthood. Bessemer turned to other inventions, mainly in metalworking, including a process for making bronze powder and gold paint. After he had overcome technical problems, the process became highly profitable, earning him a considerable income during the forty years it was in use.
The Crimean War presented inventors such as Bessemer with a challenge when weaknesses in the iron used to make the cannon became apparent. In 1856, at his Baxter House premises in St Paneras, London, he tried fusing cast iron with steel. Noticing the effect of an air current on the molten mixture, he constructed a reaction vessel or converter in which air was blown through molten cast iron. There was a vigorous reaction which nearly burned the house down, and Bessemer found the iron to be almost completely decarburized, without the slag threads always present in wrought iron. Bessemer had in fact invented not only a new process but a new material, mild steel. His paper "On the manufacture of malleable iron and steel without fuel" at the British Association meeting in Cheltenham later that year created a stir. Bessemer was courted by ironmasters to license the process. However, success was short-lived, for they found that phosphorus in the original iron ore passed into the metal and rendered it useless. By chance, Bessemer had used in his trials pig-iron, derived from haematite, a phosphorus-free ore. Bessemer tried hard to overcome the problem, but lacking chemical knowledge he resigned himself to limiting his process to this kind of pig-iron. This limitation was removed in 1879 by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, who substituted a chemically basic lining in the converter in place of the acid lining used by Bessemer. This reacted with the phosphorus to form a substance that could be tapped off with the slag, leaving the steel free from this harmful element. Even so, the new material had begun to be applied in engineering, especially for railways. The open-hearth process developed by Siemens and the Martin brothers complemented rather than competed with Bessemer steel. The widespread use of the two processes had a revolutionary effect on mechanical and structural engineering and earned Bessemer around £1 million in royalties before the patents expired.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1879. FRS 1879. Royal Society of Arts Albert Gold Medal 1872.
Bibliography
1905, Sir Henry Bessemer FRS: An Autobiography, London.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bessemer,Sir Henry — Bessemer, Sir Henry. 1813 1898. British inventor and metallurgist who received more than 100 patents, most notably for the Bessemer process. * * * …   Universalium

  • Bessemer, Sir Henry — (19 ene. 1813, Charlton, Hertfordshire, Inglaterra–15 mar. 1898, Londres). Inventor e ingeniero británico. Hijo de un metalurgista, estableció su propio negocio de fundición a los 17 años de edad. En esa época, los únicos materiales de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bessemer, Sir Henry — born Jan. 19, 1813, Charlton, Hertfordshire, Eng. died March 15, 1898, London British inventor and engineer. Son of a metallurgist, he set up his own casting business at 17. At that time the only iron based construction materials were cast iron… …   Universalium

  • Bessemer , Sir Henry — (1813–1898) British inventor and engineer Bessemer was the son of a mechanical engineer who had fled from the French Revolution. After leaving the village school in Charlton, where he was born, he worked as a type caster, until the family moved… …   Scientists

  • BESSEMER, SIR HENRY —    civil engineer and inventor, born at Charlton, Herts; of his many inventions the chief is the process, named after him, of converting pig iron into steel at once by blowing a blast of air through the iron while in fusion till everything… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Sir Henry — Bessemer (engineer inventor metallurgist remembered for bessemer steel); Sir Henry Wood (conductor) …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Sir Henry Bessemer — noun British inventor and metallurgist who developed the Bessemer process (1813 1898) • Syn: ↑Bessemer • Instance Hypernyms: ↑metallurgist, ↑metallurgical engineer, ↑inventor, ↑discoverer, ↑artificer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Henry Bessemer — Sir Henry Bessemer Sir Henry Bessemer (* 19. Januar 1813 in Charlton, Hertfordshire; † 14. März 1898 in London) war ein britischer Ingenieur und Erfinder. Er entwickelte das erste Verfahren, Stahl günstig in Massenproduktion herzustellen. Dazu… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Henry Bessemer — Henry Bessemer. Sir Henry Bessemer (Charlton, Inglaterra, 19 de enero de 1813 Londres 15 de marzo de 1898) fue un ingeniero, fundidor de tipos de imprenta, pionero de la siderurgia moderna, e inventor del proceso de refinado de acero que lleva su …   Wikipedia Español

  • bessemer — [ bɛsmɛr ] n. m. • 1886; acier bessemer 1862; nom de l inventeur ♦ Techn. Convertisseur pour transformer la fonte en acier. ● bessemer nom masculin Convertisseur inventé par sir Henry Bessemer pour transformer la fonte en acier par insufflation d …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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