Henry Bessemer was born in Hitchen, Hertfordshire in 1813. He learned metallurgy in his father's type foundry and made numerous inventions such as a typesetting machine and finding new ways of making gold paint and lead pencils. He also invented a new machine for sugar refining.
During the Crimean War (1853-56) he patented a process by which molten pig-iron could be turned directly into steel by blowing air through it in a converter. This cut out the wrought-iron stage and dramatically reduced the cost of producing steel.
In 1859 Bessemer established a steelworks at Sheffield and began producing guns and steel rails. British entrepreneurs were slow to make use of Bessemer's converter but Andrew Carnegie saw it on a trip to England and made a fortune using this method to produce steel in the United States.
Henry Bessemer died in 1898.