Sample of Bessemer steel, 1860.

Image number: 10324048

Sample of Bessemer steel, 1860.

A section of steel cut from the muzzle of a gun muzzle and bent under a steam hammer. Sir Henry Bessemer was an English inventor and engineer who invented a cheap process for manufacturing steel. He patented a process in 1856 by which molten pig iron was converted to steel by blowing air through it in a converter. This removed most of the impurities and no extra fuel was required, because the carbon, oxidised during the blow, generated great heat. Establishing a steelworks in Sheffield, Bessemer manufactured guns and, later, steel rails. Further improvements to the process were made by Robert Mushet and Sidney Gilchrist Thomas in 1878. In the United States, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie made a fortune from Bessemer's process.

Image number:
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Date taken:
28 October 2003 11:40
Image rights:
Science Museum

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