xxxxxIt was in 1856 that the engineer Henry Bessemer invented his “pneumatic converter” and introduced the “Bessemer process”. This blasted air through molten pig-
THE BESSEMER PROCESS
IN STEEL PRODUCTION 1856 (Va)
Bessemer: date and artist unknown. Open-
xxxxxIt was during the Crimean War, while engaged in making a new design of cannon, that the English inventor and self-
xxxxxHenry Bessemer (1813-
xxxxxIncidentally, a similar process to that devised by Bessemer was invented by the American ironmaster William Kelly (1811-
xxxxxFivexyears after the introduction of the Bessemer process, an alternative method of producing steel was invented simultaneously by the German-
xxxxxOver the next hundred years these two processes -
xxxxxAnd a plentiful supply of cheap steel made a visible impact upon the construction industry. Thick masonry walls gave way to steel frames, and these enabled the building of multi-
xxxxxIncidentally, the term “skyscraper” was originally applied to buildings which were ten to twenty storeys high, but by the 20th century it was only being used to describe buildings over forty storeys in height.
Henry Bessemer and
The Industrial Revolution
xxxxxAs we have seen, an earlier innovation in the production of iron, Cort’s puddling process of 1784 (G3b), ushered in the Age of Iron and, together with other factors, was to give Britain a head start in the Industrial Revolution. At the same time the introduction of the rotary engine by James Watt -
xxxxxThe cotton industry, mechanised over the years by hands-
xxxxxAt first, this large scale move to factories -
xxxxxBut this sudden acceleration in industrial development only served to intensify the country’s move towards an urban society, already well under way. In the sprawling, overcrowded cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, living and working conditions were often appalling, child-
xxxxxThe Great Exhibition, held in 1851, clearly demonstrated Britain’s industrial supremacy. By then coal production had increased five fold, the manufacture of pig iron accounted for half the world’s output, and 6,800 miles of railway had been opened. In addition, the value of exports and capital investment overseas had more than tripled, and Britain was responsible for over a third of the world’s industrial output. A number of factors had combined to make Britain the “workshop of the world”. Not least amongst these was the increase in the country’s population and the larger workforce this provided, a plentiful supply of natural resources, notably coal and iron ore, and the abundance and variety of raw materials imported from British colonies worldwide. And underpinning these advantages was a work shop environment that favoured and encouraged enterprise, a stable political system, and a monetary policy which managed to keep interest rates low and investment high.
xxxxxBut this impressive industrial lead was not to last. By the 1830s Belgium was fast becoming an industrial nation, based on a rich supply of coal and iron ore, and served by a growing network of railway construction. In France too, despite long years of war and troubled peace, industry was expanding in the coal-
xxxxxIncidentally, throughout the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the country’s commercial and administrative centre, London, grew substantially in size. A population estimated at about 600,000 in 1701 had increased to nearly a million a century later, and had reached two and a half million by 1851 -
xxxxxAs we have seen, Cort’s puddling process of 1784 (G3b) ushered in the Age of Iron, and gave Britain a head start in the Industrial Revolution. At the same time the introduction of the rotary engine by James Watt began the move to the factory system, with steam replacing animal and water power. The cotton industry, mechanised over the years by a string of inventions, led the way, but soon other industries, including those making woollens, paper, flour and pottery, built factories near to other coalmines of the North, the new sources of power and employment. This move from the cottage to the factory system necessitated the improvement of roads and the building of canals, a transport network which was greatly augmented in the 1830s by the advent of the railways. Soon manufactured goods were being shipped across the world. The Great Exhibition of 1851 clearly demonstrated Britain’s industrial supremacy. Britain had become the ”workshop of the world”, responsible for one third of the world’s industrial output. But this lead was not to last. First Belgium and France, and then Germany began their own industrial revolutions, leading the way on the continent of Europe, whilst in the United States advantage was soon taken of the country’s large population and vast natural resources. There, industrial production outstripped that of Britain’s by the end of the 19th century, greatly assisted by the benefits of mass production.