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Bessemer, Goransson and Mushet

Author: Lange

Sir Henry Bessemer is generally honoured as the inventor of the Bessemer steelmaking process, i.e., making steel from pig iron by blowing air through it in a converter. The Bessemer process quickly became a great commercial success and it brought great wealth to its inventor, who held a quite generally worded patent on the method. It is less well-known, that the original process, as invented by Bessemer, shortly after its introduction proved to be rather less than perfect. Most of the steel blown in the earliest converters was far too wild. In other words, over-oxidised. Useless for most purposes. Also, when pig iron rich in phosphorus was blown, the resulting steel was brittle. Again, useless!

The solution to these serious problems was largely due to the work of two other men: R.F. Mushet and G.F. Goransson. Mushet pioneered the addition of Spiegeleisen (rich in manganese) which deoxidised the wild steel effectively. And Goransson determined that the Bessemer method worked well for pig iron with only small amounts of phosphorus: Swedish iron being very well suited. He also discovered that - contrary to Bessemer's own ideas - the blast had to be low pressure, large volume instead of high pressure. This ensured a much hotter and therefore more homogeneous molten steel.

Edske blast furnace where Bessemer's method of making steel was first accomplished, 18th July, 1858

Edske blast furnace where Bessemer's method of making steel was first accomplished, 18th July, 1858

Mushet explained his role in the improvement of the Bessemer method in a small privately published booklet. He was a very disappointed man, as his addition of Spiegel was not covered by a patent. Bessemer quickly appropriated the method and all financial gains it ensured. Mushet didn't receive a penny. Swedish Ironmaster Goransson did not bother to fight Bessemer. He was satisfied to manufacture excellent steel from his own (cheap) Swedish pig irons.

As said, these facts were little known, as Bessemer carefully omitted them from his famous autobiography. Unknown, that is, until 1913, some years after Bessemer's death, when steel historian Ernest Lange finally set things right in a paper published in the Memoirs of the Manchester Lit. and Phil. This section of the Memoirs was reprinted and bound as a small booklet: the subject of our present re-issue on CD-ROM.

Part of our Metallurgical Reprint Series.


eerste uitgave / first published type medium dim. omvang / extent binding prijs / price
1913 heruitgave / re-edition digital   xi+46 pp - 8 Plates   € 15,00