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Nature volume 113, pages 722726 (17 May 1924) | Download Citation



THE new president of the Iron and Steel Institute, Sir William Ellis, is an engineer by training, but has been identified with the great steelworks of Browns in Sheffield for more than forty years. His address delivered on May 8 consisted of a comparison of the practice of such a firm forty years ago with that of to-day, and a consideration of the circumstances which have enabled the very great change and development to take place. In the early 'eighties, the management was in the hands of men whose chief qualifications were common sense and great power of application. Apart from the training given at the Royal School of Mines under Dr. Percy, metallurgy as a science could scarcely be said to exist, and technical institutions for the training of students in engineering and metallurgy were only beginning to come into existence. The various departments were run by separate engines with long steam mains, very often ill protected against condensation, so that efficiency was very low. Steam hammers up to fifty tons were largely in use, and the overhead crane was only beginning to be adopted. The Bessemer process was supreme, although the open-hearth furnace was being rapidly developed. To-day, in contrast to this, the Bessemer process, although it still continues to be worked, has been superseded in importance by the open-hearth process. Electrothermic processes of steel manufacture have been introduced and in time will probably displace fuel-fired furnaces altogether. Forging plant has developed to a very great extent, and quick-acting forging presses have been universally adopted. Pumping engines for these have given place to the use of intensifiers. Ingots of more than one hundred tons in weight are required for forgings and large marine shafting. Only the introduction of hydraulic presses has rendered this class of production possible. In Sir William Ellis's opinion, three elements are mainly responsible for the great change: improved education, electric driving, and high-pressure steam. In the second part of his address, the president dealt with certain manufacturing difficulties in the heavy steel industry which still remain to be solved. His plea for a close understanding between the manufacturing engineer and the metallurgist is one which will be heartily endorsed by all those conversant with manufacturing difficulties.

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