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Benjamin Huntsman: Wikis

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Benjamin Huntsman (4 June 1704 – 20 June 1776) was an English inventor and manufacturer of crucible steel. He was born the third son of a Quaker farmer in Epworth, Lincolnshire. His parents were Germans.

He started business as a clock, lock and tool maker at Doncaster, and attained a considerable local reputation for scientific knowledge and skilled workmanship. He also practised surgery in an experimental fashion, and was frequently consulted as an oculist.

Hampered by poor quality steel, Huntsman experimented in steel manufacture: first at Doncaster, and then at Handsworth, near Sheffield, whither he removed in 1740 to secure cheaper fuel for his furnaces. This cheaper fuel was coke which was more efficient than charcoal. After several years of trials, he produced a satisfactory cast steel, purer and harder than any contemporary steel. The Sheffield cutlery manufacturers, however, refused to buy it on the ground that it was too hard, and for a long time Huntsman exported his whole output to France. The English parliament prohibited the refining of pig iron or the casting of iron in the American colonies, contributing to the American Revolution.

The growing competition of imported French cutlery made from Huntsman's cast-steel alarmed the Sheffield cutlers, who, after vainly endeavouring to get the exportation of the steel prohibited by the British government, were compelled in self-defence to use it. Huntsman had not patented his process, and its secret was discovered by a Sheffield iron-founder called Walker, who, according to a popular story, obtained admission to Huntsman's works in the disguise of a starving beggar asking to sleep by a fire for the night.

Benjamin Huntsman died in 1776, his business being subsequently greatly developed by his son, William Huntsman (1733-1809).

At Sheffield's Northern General Hospital one of the original main buildings is named after him, and in the city centre is a Wetherspoons pub called The Benjamin Huntsman.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BENJAMIN HUNTSMAN (1704-1776), English inventor and steel-manufacturer, was born in Lincolnshire in 1704. His parents were Germans. He started business as a clock, lock and tool maker at Doncaster, and attained a considerable local reputation for scientific knowledge and skilled workmanship. He also practised surgery in an experimental fashion, and was frequently consulted as an oculist. Finding that the bad quality of the steel then available for his products seriously hampered him, he began to experiment in steel-manufacture, first at Doncaster, and subsequently at Handsworth, near Sheffield, whither he removed in 1740 to secure cheaper fuel for his furnaces. After several years' trials he at last produced a satisfactory cast steel, purer and harder than any steel then in use. The Sheffield cutlery manufacturers, however, refused to buy it, on the ground that it was too hard, and for a long time Huntsman exported his whole output to France. The growing competition of imported French cutlery made from Huntsman's cast-steel at length alarmed the Sheffield cutlers, who, after vainly endeavouring to get the exportation of the steel prohibited by the British government, were compelled in self-defence to use it. Huntsman had not patented his process, and its secret was discovered by a Sheffield ironfounder, who, according to a popular story, obtained admission to Huntsman's works in the disguise of a tramp. Benjamin Huntsman died in 1776, his business being subsequently greatly developed by his son, William Huntsman (1733-1809).

See Smiles, Industrial Biography (1879).


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