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Englishmen Abraham Darby (1678 - 1717) invented coke smelting in 1709 and, advanced the mass production of brass and iron goods. Coke smelting replaced charcoal with coal in metal foundries during the process of refining metals; this was important to Britain's future since charcoal at that time was becoming scarce and was more expensive.
Abraham Darby scientifically studied brass production and was able to make advances in that industry that turned Great Britain into an important brass goods exporter. Darby founded the world's first metallurgy laboratory at his Baptist Mills Brass Works factory, where he refined brass making. He developed the process of sand molding that allowed iron and brass goods to be mass produced at a lower cost per unit. Before Abraham Darby, brass and iron goods had to be individually cast. His process made the production of cast iron and brass goods a continuous process. Darby received a patent for his sand casting in 1708.
Darby combined the existing technologies of casting iron with casting brass that produced goods of a greater intricacy, thinness, smoothness, and detail. This proved important to the steam engine industry that came later, Darby's casting methods made the production of the iron and brass steam engines possible.
The Darby Lineage
Decedents of Abraham Darby also made contributions to the iron industry. Darby's son Abraham Darby II (1711- 1763) improved the quality of coke smelted pig iron for forging into wrought iron. Darby's grandson Abraham Darby III (1750 - 1791) constructed the world's first iron bridge, over the Severn river at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire in 1779.