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Technique for converting pig iron to steel invented by Henry Bessemer in England in 1856 and brought by him into commercial production in 1860. Air blown through liquid pig iron in a refractory-lined converter oxidizes the carbon and silicon in the iron. Heat released by the oxidation keeps the metal molten. R.F. Mushet contributed the technique for deoxidizing the converted metal that made the process a success. William Kelly conducted experiments with an air-blown converter between 1856 and 1860 in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, but failed to make steel. Alexander L. Holley built the first successful Bessemer steel plant in the U.S. in 1865. High-volume production of low-cost steel in Britain and the U.S. by the Bessemer process soon revolutionized building construction and provided steel to replace iron in railroad rails and many other uses. The Bessemer process was eventually superseded by the open-hearth process. See alsobasic Bessemer process.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Bessemer process, visit Britannica.com.