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Men, Machines, and Modern Times$
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Elting E. Morison

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262529310

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262529310.001.0001

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“Almost the Greatest Invention”

“Almost the Greatest Invention”

(p.163) 7 “Almost the Greatest Invention”
Men, Machines, and Modern Times

Elting E. Morison

The MIT Press

This chapter describes the development of the Bessemer steel process. In spring 1862, a rail of Bessemer steel was laid down between two abutting iron rails in the Camden yard of the London and Northwestern Railway. Three years later, in May 1865, the first rail manufactured from Bessemer steel in the United States was produced at the North Chicago Rolling Mill. The chapter first provides an overview of steelmaking and metallurgy before discussing the commercial and intellectual development of the Bessemer steel process, along with the use of Bessemer steel in making railroads. It also considers innovations in the production of the Bessemer steel process and the patent controversy sparked by the technology, tariff protection for the process, and the Bessemer Association's price-fixing scheme. The chapter concludes by highlighting the stages involved in the innovating process: the inventive stage, the stage in which the invention is applied by the first entrepreneurs, the stage in which other entrepreneurs and engineers refine and consolidate, and the stage in which still other entrepreneurs take over to expand.

Keywords:   railroads, Bessemer steel process, metallurgy, steel, innovation, Bessemer Association, price-fixing, entrepreneurs, engineers, invention

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