A Man of Steel

Forester Mushet was born in England in 1811. He was trained as a metallurgist and owned a foundry. At the time, cast iron was the primary metal used, but cast iron had problems with durability. The problem was especially a challenge in rails for the emerging railroads connecting parts of countries around the world. The rails typically had to be replaced every 3-6 months. The future of rail transportation depended on metal which would last years rather than months.

Henry Bessemer had developed steel as an alternative to cast iron. However, Bessemer’s steel had quality problems due to impurities in the iron. Bessemer had spent a fortune trying to solve the problem but was unable to do so. As a result, his process for producing steel was uneconomical.

Forester found the solution that had eluded Bessemer. Steel could now be made that was more functional. Unfortunately, the fortunes made from steel were denied to Forester. He was destitute. It took his 16-year-old daughter to shame Bessemer into paying Forester a modest pension.

With his knowledge of steel making, Forester was able to make steel rails. The challenge of rail travel was finally overcome when Forester produced rails that lasted for years. His rails thus enabled rail transportation around the world. In the U.S., the West would not have opened up without his rails.

In 1876, Forester Mushet was awarded the Bessemer Gold Medal by the Iron and Steel Institute. It was an ironic award in that without his discovery, steel would not have achieved the prominence that it had.

Hidden heroes are often overshadowed by those who are given credit for innovations even though their innovations are initially flawed. Credit is rarely given to those who make the innovations useful. The name Forester Mushet is virtually unknown today.

* * *

“Those who plant the seed are rarely the ones who have the patience to see that seed mature.” – Anonymous

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.