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Biography of Henry Bessemer

Portrait of Henry Bessemer

Sir Henry Bessemer was an industrialist who perfected the “Bessemer Process” of improving the quality of iron.

When and Where was Henry Bessemer Born?

19th January 1813, Charlton, Hertfordshire, England.

Family Background:

Henry Bessemer was the son of an Engineer and type founder.


He left the local school to enter his father’s workshop.

Timeline of Henry Bessemer:

1830: Bessemer sets up his own company in London to produce small castings and art works.

1834: He marries the daughter of his best friend Anne Allen.

1840: His early years are concerned with developing a number of inventions and it was his process of forming a gold paint from brass additives that gained him his wealth and standing in society. With the profits of this trade he set up a larger factory at St. Pancras in London. Much of late Victorian engineering used gilding as a decoration to represent the power and glory of the British Empire at the the time.

1854: During the Crimean War Bessemer invents a new type of artillery shell but the British Generals told him that the cast iron cannons of the time where not strong enough to take the forces involved in its firing and so he set about making iron stronger.

1855: In October he takes out a patent on his process for making cast iron more malleable by introducing air into the liquid metal which greatly reduced its carbon content.

1859: He establishes a major steel works in Sheffield making the area renowned in later years for its quality products in steel. Amongst other things he manufactures rails for the new railways and locomotives and bridge parts.

1877: Bessemer is elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

1879: He is Knighted by Queen Victoria. His ideas in steel manufacturing weren’t universally popular but Andrew Carnegie in the USA learnt much from the method and became one of the world’s richest men in the process.

When and Where did he Die?

15th March 1898, at home at Denmark Hill, London of natural causes.

Age at Death:



1834 to the daughter of his best friend, Miss Anne Allen.

Site of Grave:

Norwood Cemetery, Norwood, London, England.

Places of Interest:


Imperial War Museum