- The Bessemer process, which de-carbonizes melted pig iron into steel by means of a blast of air, was named after its inventor, Englishman Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898). The process was a boon to manufacturing, for it greatly reduced costs of production. Bessemer described the process in his paper "The Manufacture of malleable and steel Iron Without Fuel." In the Bessemer converter, the melted pig iron surrenders its carbon and other impurities through the action of air forced on the molten metal. Bessemer patented his discovery in the United States in 1857. Meanwhile a certain William Kelly (1811-1888) discovered the same process accidentally at about the same time while working as a master of an iron furnace at Eddyville, Kentucky. He observed that a blast of air on molten metal raised its temperature greatly by oxidation. Kelly must have had great powers of persuasion, because he convinced the patent officials of the priority of his claim. He thereupon organized an ironworks near Detroit, Michigan, in 1864. Another American began operating with Bessemer's patents the following year at Troy, New York. This latter company and Kelly's became engaged in a prolonged lawsuit that finally was settled by consolidating the litigating companies. Kelly retired, and the Bessemer converter continued to convert and since then has remained unchallenged.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.