Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898)

Inventor of the first process for mass-producing steel.

Bessemer demonstrated considerable mechanical skill and inventiveness early in life. His first major success was in the manufacture of cheap 'gold' paint made with bronze powder. Bessemer's paint was widely used to adorn gilded decoration and brought him great wealth.

In 1854, during the Crimean War, Bessemer invented a new type of artillery shell. The cast-iron guns of the time could not deal with the forces of the more powerful shell. Bessemer realised that steel, a stronger material, would serve better, but it was prohibitively expensive and could only be produced in small batches. Thus, in 1856 he produced the first Bessemer Converter. This new technology allowed the production of steel at lower prices and in large quantities.

The availability of cheap, plentiful steel had an enormous impact on industry and society as a whole. Bessemer received a knighthood and became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Although the Bessemer Converter is no longer used, modern steel is made using technology based on Bessemer's process.