Blue Plaque for Bessemer

18 May 2017
Blue Plaque outside 15 Northampton Square

On 16 May 2017 a Blue Plaque was unveiled for Sir Henry Bessemer outside 15 Northampton Square Islington, where he lived from 1833. Today, the site is the main entrance of City, University of London. The plaque will be accompanied by an exhibition, which will showcase the history of Northampton Square, Bessemer’s life and his invention of the revolutionary Bessemer Process, as well as his continued impact on the engineering community.

Bessemer was an English engineer and inventor, whose steelmaking process would become the most important technique for making steel in the nineteenth century. At the time of invention, the Bessemer process was of enormous industrial importance because it lowered the cost of production steel, leading to steel being widely substituted for cast iron.  

The basis of his engineering and metal working skills was evidently acquired from his father, Anthony Bessemer, who was a highly skilled craftsman and successful businessman. Bessemer's first invention was to use brass as a paint additive instead of gold.

He was one of the founder members of the Iron and Steel Institute, which was formed in 1869. He succeeded the Duke of Devonshire as the second President of the Institute and held office in 1871-1873. During this tenure, he provided a sum of money to endow the annual award of the Bessemer Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to the Iron and Steel industry. The medal became the premier award of the Iron and Steel Institute and its successors, the Metals Society and now the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. 

A prolific inventor, Bessemer had 117 patents in his name in the fields of iron, steel and glass. Bessemer was knighted for his contribution to science on 26 June 1879. After a long and active retirement, he died on 15 March 1898, in London.