A Conversation for Henry Bessemer and the Development of Bulk Steelmaking
The Monks Ghost Started conversation Jun 19, 2011
This may well be the Last Great h2g2 Article under the BBC's stewardship. Elegantly and eruditely written, as always, and utterly fascinating.
As you know, I grew up in Swansea, and the industry has left its scars all over the landscape. They were scars earned in a battle, of sorts. My dad was one of the footsoldiers in that battle, and ended up being a lieutenant. But it's good to know about the generals as well.
Pinniped Posted Jun 19, 2011
...and your Gower Peninsula Entry stands high in my list of the great late EGEs.
The Monks Ghost Posted Jul 5, 2011
I've been thinking about why I like this piece so much. It's because It's a pleasure to read something really well-written by someone who knows what they are talking about. And that knowledge has come about through study, experience and an evident passion for the scientific, ecomnomic and human dimensions of the topic.
This embidies what I think h2g2 should be about - popular scholarship. This is not at all elitist or stuffy: it's the opposite, acknowledging that this kind of writing can be both engaging and learned, and that anybody can do it. Not the usual half-baked musing on dreary little everyday marginalia that too often passes for a edited entry, but a real love of the subject that has abided down the years, and that makes the author want to communicate their passion. When it's genuine, the passion shines through, as it does in this case.
Pinniped Posted Jul 5, 2011
I think you're right in that popular scholarship is what we're really about.
I ought to make a bit of a confession, though. I could only bring myself to write about Bessemer once I felt sure that I had better stories in me. Bessemer eventually proved to be a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. I was learning for years about his technical achievements, and hearing the tales of emnity that surround his legend, and I imagined an immense personality that wasn't really evident when I came to read his writings.
There are a few more tales of the Men of Steel that would make sequels. Not all of them wrote enough to reflect their character, but the finest human being among those who did, in my estimation, was Brearley. 2013 is the centenary of his discovery of stainless steel, and I think I might write about him in that year, for another h2g2.
The Monks Ghost Posted Jul 6, 2011
Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the cooking, and whatever your misgivings about Bessemer, you certainly did his story justice in the end.
I'm reading Atlas Shrugged right now. Mainly because I want to try to understand how its narcissistic author became an icon for the lunatics in the Tea Party, and partly because I want to try to understand whether the romance behind its philosophy is actually grounded in anything that ordinary people can relate to. A lot of the early part of that book is about steelmaking, and it panders to the romantic stereotype of the pioneering industrialist.
The reality, 'though, is rather more akin to what you've written about. Bessemer was very flawed and not very heroic at all, and would have benefitted far more from the influence of others, instead of being held back, as Ayn Rand might have liked to think.
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