Steel Heroes - Harry Brearly



  • 1871 –1948
  • Bessemer Gold Medal 1920
  • Freedom of Sheffield 1939


First job was as a laboratory boy at Thos Firth and Sons Ltd. in Sheffield.

In 1901, he left Firths to go to Messrs Kayser Ellison & Co Ltd, but returned to Firths in 1904 to become Chief Chemist at their Riga works, and the following year he was appointed as Works Manager.

In about 1901 he co-wrote “The Analysis of Steel Works Materials“ with Fred Ibbotson.  He subsequently wrote three other books, 2 on tool steels and 1 on ingots and moulds.

At the end of 1907 he returned to Sheffield to design and equip a proposed research Laboratory  for Firths and John Brown & Co Ltd.

In May 1912, while researching steel for small arms, Brearley made trials with low carbon steels containing about 12 per cent chromium.  These steels had the happy ability (due to the formation of a chromium oxide film on the steel's surface) to resist corrosion, a fact recognized by Brearley almost immediately.  He also saw the commercial possibilities of the product and alerted Firths. According to Brearley, Firths showed little interest, and he was left to find a use for it. He suggested that it might be useful for cutlery, a view vindicated when the Sheffield cutlery firm of George Ibberson succeeded in 1914 in making knife blades from the alloy. Stainless (or as it was then known, ‘rustless’) steel had arrived, and by the First World War commercial production in Sheffield was well under way.

In 1915 he joined Brown Bayley’s Steel Works Ltd as Works Manager, subsequently becoming Technical Director.

In 1942 he established the Freshgate Trust Foundation, a charity which he hoped would 'help lame dogs over stiles'.  They are still in existence today

Brearley’s last book published in 1946, as entitled “Talks on Steelmaking”

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