Harry Brearley

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Monument to Harry Brearley at the former Brown Firth Research Laboratories in Sheffield, England Harry Brearley.jpg
Monument to Harry Brearley at the former Brown Firth Research Laboratories in Sheffield, England

Harry Brearley (18 February 1871 – 14 July 1948) was an English metallurgist, credited with the invention of "rustless steel" (later to be called "stainless steel" in the anglophone world). Based in Sheffield, his invention brought affordable cutlery to the masses, and saw an expansion of the city’s traditional cutlery trade. [1]

Stainless steel steel alloy resistant to corrosion

In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French inoxydable (inoxidizable), is a steel alloy, with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass and a maximum of 1.2% carbon by mass.

Sheffield City and Metropolitan borough in England

Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough in South Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. With some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely industrial roots to encompass a wider economic base. The population of the City of Sheffield is 577,800 (mid-2017 est.) and it is one of the eight largest regional English cities that make up the Core Cities Group. Sheffield is the third-largest English district by population. The metropolitan population of Sheffield is 1,569,000.

Cutlery eating utensils

Cutlery includes any hand implement used in preparing, serving, and especially eating food in Western culture. A person who makes or sells cutlery is called a cutler. The city of Sheffield in England has been famous for the production of cutlery since the 17th century and a train – the Master Cutler – running from Sheffield to London was named after the industry. Bringing affordable cutlery to the masses, stainless steel was developed in Sheffield in the early 20th century.

Contents

Life

Brearley was born on 18 February 1871 in Sheffield, England, the son of John Brearley, a steelworker, and his wife, Jane Brearley née Senior. [2] He left Woodside school at the age of twelve to enter his first employment as a labourer in his father's steelworks, later getting the post of general assistant in the company's chemical laboratory. He married Helen Theresa Crank (1874–1955) on 23 October 1895. [2] For several years, in addition to his laboratory work, he studied at home and later in formal evening classes, to specialize in steel production techniques and associated chemical analysis methods.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

By his early thirties, Brearley had earned a reputation as an experienced professional and for being very astute in the resolution of practical, industrial, metallurgical problems. It was in 1908, when two of Sheffield's principal steelmaking companies innovatively agreed to jointly finance a common research laboratory (Brown Firth Laboratories) that Harry Brearley was asked to lead the project.

Steelmaking process for producing steel from iron ore and scrap

Steelmaking is the process for producing steel from iron ore and scrap. In steelmaking, impurities such as nitrogen, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and excess carbon are removed from the sourced iron, and alloying elements such as manganese, nickel, chromium and vanadium are added to produce different grades of steel. Limiting dissolved gases such as nitrogen and oxygen, and entrained impurities in the steel is also important to ensure the quality of the products cast from the liquid steel.

Firth Brown Steels was initially formed in 1902, when Sheffield steelmakers John Brown & Company exchanged shares and came to a working agreement with neighbouring company Thomas Firth & Sons. In 1908 the two companies came together and established the Brown Firth Research Laboratories and it was here, in 1912, under the leadership of Harry Brearley they developed high chrome stainless steel. The companies continued under their own management until they formally merged in 1930 becoming Firth Brown Steels. The company is now part of Sheffield Forgemasters.

After leaving Brown Firth, Brearley joined Brown Bayley's Steel Works, also in Sheffield; he became a director of the firm in 1925. [3]

Brown Bayley Steels was a steel-making company established in Sheffield, England in 1871, as Brown, Bayley & Dixon. They occupied a site on Leeds Road which was later occupied by the Don Valley sports stadium. The firm was founded by George Brown, Nephew of "John Brown" of the firm John Brown & Company. The firm manufactured Bessemer steel and railway tracks.

In 1941 Brearley created a charitable trust The Freshgate Trust Foundation, a grantmaking charity operating in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. His aim was to provide a "Fresh Gate" or new opportunity to people like him born into modest circumstances so that they may experience the finer things in life such as travel, education, the arts and music. The foundation is still operating as a registered charity awarding grants for charitable purposes in South Yorkshire. [4]

Charitable organization non-profit organization with a charitable purpose

A charitable organization or charity is a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being.

Brearley died on 14 July 1948, at Torquay, a coastal resort town in Devon, south west England. He was cremated at Efford Crematorium, Efford, near Plymouth on 16 July 1948 [2] and his ashes were scattered in the Efford Crematorium Garden of Remembrance. [5]

Torquay town in Devon, England

Torquay is a seaside town in Devon, England, part of the unitary authority area of Torbay. It lies 18 miles (29 km) south of the county town of Exeter and 28 miles (45 km) east-north-east of Plymouth, on the north of Tor Bay, adjoining the neighbouring town of Paignton on the west of the bay and across from the fishing port of Brixham.

A seaside resort is a resort town or resort village, or resort hotel, located on the coast. Sometimes it is also an officially accredited title, that is only awarded to a town when the requirements are met. Where a beach is the primary focus for tourists, it may be called a beach resort.

Plymouth City and Unitary authority in England

Plymouth is a port city situated on the south coast of Devon, England, approximately 37 miles (60 km) south-west of Exeter and 190 miles (310 km) west-south-west of London. Enclosing the city are the mouths of the river Plym and river Tamar, which are naturally incorporated into Plymouth Sound to form a boundary with Cornwall.

In 2013, in the Sheffield University Varsity Brewing Challenge, Sheffield University named their beer – brewed by Thornbridge – Brearleys, to commemorate 100 years since Harry Brearley invented stainless steel.

Stainless steel

In the troubled years immediately before World War I, arms manufacturing increased significantly in the UK, but practical problems were encountered due to erosion (excessive wear) of the internal surfaces of gun barrels. Brearley began to research new steels which could better resist the erosion caused by high temperatures (rather than corrosion, as is often mentioned in this regard). He began to examine the addition of chromium to steel, which was known to raise the material's melting point, as compared to the standard carbon steels.

The research concentrated on quantifying the effects of varying the levels of carbon (C, at concentrations around 0.2 weight %) and chromium (Cr, in the range of 6 to 15 weight %).

The accidental discovery

Announcement of Brearley's stainless steel discovery as it appeared in the 1915 New York Times. Stainless steel nyt 1-31-1915.jpg
Announcement of Brearley's stainless steel discovery as it appeared in the 1915 New York Times .

In order to undertake metallography to study the microstructure of the experimental alloys (the main factor responsible for a steel's mechanical properties) it was necessary to polish and etch the metallic samples produced. For a carbon steel, a dilute solution of nitric acid in alcohol is sufficient to produce the required etching, but Brearley found that the new chromium steels were very resistant to chemical attack.

Development

It was probably Harry Brearley's upbringing in Sheffield, a city famous for the manufacture of cutlery since the 16th century, which led him to appreciate the potential of these new steels for applications not only in high-temperature service, as originally envisioned, but also in the mass-production of food-related applications such as cutlery, saucepans and processing equipment etc. Up to that time carbon-steel knives were prone to unhygienic rusting if they were not frequently polished and only expensive sterling silver or EPNS cutlery was generally available to avoid such problems. With this in mind Brearley extended his examinations to include tests with food acids such as vinegar and lemon juice, with very promising results.

Brearley initially called the new alloy "rustless steel"; the more euphonic "stainless steel" was suggested by Ernest Stuart of R.F. Mosley's, a local cutlery manufacturer at Portland Works, and eventually prevailed although Mosley's used the "Rusnorstain" trademark for many years. It is reported [7] that the first true stainless steel, a 0.24wt% C, 12.8wt% Cr ferrous alloy, was produced by Brearley in an electric furnace on 13 August 1913. He was subsequently awarded the Iron and Steel Institute's Bessemer Gold Medal in 1920. [3] The American Society for Metals gives the date for Brearley's creation of casting number 1008 (12.8% chromium, 0.44% manganese, 0.2% silicon, 0.24% carbon and 85.32% iron) as 20 August 1913. [8]

Virtually all research projects into the further development of stainless steels were interrupted by the 1914–18 War, but efforts were renewed in the 1920s. Brearley had left the Brown Firth Laboratories in 1915, following disagreements regarding patent rights, but the research continued under the direction of his successor, Dr. W. H. Hatfield. It is Hatfield who is credited with the development, in 1924, of a stainless steel which even today is probably the widest-used alloy of this type, the so-called "18/8", which in addition to chromium, includes nickel (Ni) in its composition (18wt% Cr, 8wt% Ni).

Memorials

A 42 feet (13 m) mural of Brearley, marking the 100th anniversary of his invention of stainless steel, was commissioned for the side of a building on Howard Street, Sheffield, and was painted by the artist Sarah Yates (aka "Faunagraphic"). [9]

Books

See also

Related Research Articles

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Surgical stainless steel is a grade of stainless steel used in biomedical applications. The most common "surgical steels" are austenitic SAE 316 stainless and martensitic SAE 440, SAE 420, and 17-4 stainless steels. There is no formal definition on what constitutes a "surgical stainless steel", so product manufacturers and distributors often apply the term to refer to any grade of corrosion resistant steel.

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Tool steel

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References

  1. "Made in Great Britain, Series 1, Steel". BBC. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 2 April 2013
  3. 1 2 Tilt Hammer – Steel City Founders – Harry Brearley Archived 21 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Charity Commission. The Freshgate Trust Foundation, registered charity no. 221467.
  5. Confirmed in a letter dated 30 September 1994 from the City of Plymouth Cemeteries Manager to Dr Peter Beeley of Cookridge, Leeds
  6. "A non-rusting steel". New York Times. 31 January 1915.
  7. "The development of stainless steel". Stainless Steel Club. Archived from the original on 27 August 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  8. The History of Stainless Steel, by Harold M. Cobb, (ASM International, 2010) p41
  9. "Harry Brearley". Street Art Sheffield. Retrieved 30 December 2018.