Gold medal, 1867.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A medal presented to Sir Henry Besemer by the Emperor Napoleon III in recognition of his invention of the Besemer proces. 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 emperor had originally wished to present him with the Grand Cros of the Legion d'Honneur, but the British Government had refused Besemer permision to accept the award.