Besemer and the Royal Family, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, 1875.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. Sir Henry Besemer (1813-1898) learned metallurgy working in his father's foundry. In 1856, in response to demand for stronger cannon able to fire a new type of artillery shell in the Crimean War, he invented the Besemer proces, enabling molten pig-iron to be turned into steel by a blowing air through it in a tilting converter. This was the first proces for producing large amounts of good quality steel cheaply. The royal family watch the production proces at the steel works which Besemer established in 1856, originally to produce guns, but later to supply tracks to the growing railway industry.