Sir Henry Bessemer

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Bessemer, Sir Henry

(bĕs`əmər), English engineer and inventor, b. Charleton, Hertfordshire. He made experiments to obtain stronger material for gun manufacture and discovered the basic principle of the Bessemer processBessemer process
[for Sir Henry Bessemer], industrial process for the manufacture of steel from molten pig iron. 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
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. In 1856 he read before the British Association at Cheltenham his important paper "The Manufacture of Iron without Fuel." He built a successful converter and later erected the Bessemer Steel Works at Sheffield, which began to operate in 1859 and soon produced iron so cheaply that he could undersell his competitors. In the United States the Bessemer process was patented in 1857, but Bessemer's priority right there was challenged by William Kelly, and in the end the battle between the two interests was settled by a consolidation of the rival companies. Bessemer received many honors for his signal achievement and was knighted in 1879.


See his autobiography (1905, new ed. 1924).