Kelly, William


Kelly, William
born Aug. 21, 1811, Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.
died Feb. 11, 1888, Louisville, Ky.

U.S. ironmaster.

He purchased ironworks in Eddyville, Ky., and began experiments with an air blast to prepare pig for conversion to wrought iron. Because of the similarity of his apparatus to the first form of Bessemer converter (see Bessemer process), he was awarded a U.S. patent on the pneumatic steel process. There is no evidence that he made steel in any of his trials.

* * *

▪ American inventor
born Aug. 21, 1811, Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.
died Feb. 11, 1888, Louisville, Ky.

      American ironmaster who invented the pneumatic process of steelmaking, in which air is blown through molten pig iron to oxidize and remove unwanted impurities. Also patented by Sir Henry Bessemer of Great Britain, this process produced the first inexpensive steel, which became the major construction material in the burgeoning industrial age.

      In the early 1840s, while on a buying trip for McShane & Kelly, a Pittsburgh dry-goods and shipping company in which he was a partner, Kelly became interested in the iron (iron processing) industry around Eddyville, Ky., and later persuaded his brother to join him in forming an ironworks. They bought an iron furnace and 14,000 acres of timberland and ore deposits; the Eddyville Iron Works prospered.

      With the gradual depletion of the timberland and the dwindling of carbon-free iron deposits, Kelly began searching for a more efficient means of refining pig iron. Aware that air drafts cause molten iron to glow white hot, he became convinced that air blown through molten iron not only would remove the carbon but also would cause the temperature of the molten mass to rise, making further heating unnecessary.

      Those around Kelly thought his scheme insane, and his father-in-law even had him examined by a doctor. But the physician's knowledge of basic science enabled him to see the value of his patient's scheme, and he became one of Kelly's strongest supporters.

      About 1850, after several failures, Kelly succeeded in producing iron and steel with his process, although the quality of the steel was still largely a matter of chance. He did not patent the process immediately but continued working on it.

      In 1855 Bessemer (Bessemer process) obtained an English patent, and the following year several American patents, on the pneumatic process. When Kelly heard of Bessemer's patents, he filed a priority claim and in 1857 received a U.S. patent superseding Bessemer's patents.

      Further innovations in steelmaking, notably by Robert Mushet of England and Goran Goransson of Sweden, made the pneumatic process practical. Before he went bankrupt during the panic of 1857, Kelly sold his patent to his father. In 1859 he renewed his experiments at the Cambria Iron Works, Johnstown, Pa., and by 1862 managed to find enough financial aid to enable him to build a steel plant in Wyandotte, Mich. Within two years he produced the first commercial steel using the Kelly process. In 1863 the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company was organized, and the following year a rival company using Bessemer's patents was organized in Troy, N.Y. Unable to achieve more than minimal success with their respective patents and processes, the two companies pooled their resources in 1866, and thereafter steel production expanded rapidly.

      Although he received some money from the Kelly Company, it was only after his patent was extended in 1871 that Kelly received significant remuneration for his invention.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kelly, William — (1821–1906)    Sect Founder.    Kelly was a native of Ulster and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. At the age of twenty, he joined the Plymouth Brethren, as a follower of John darby, whose collected works he later edited. For much of his… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Kelly, William — (21 ago. 1811, Pittsburgh, Pa., EE.UU.–11 feb. 1888, Louisville, Ky.). Productor de hierro estadounidense. Adquiría las barras fundidas de hierro en Eddyville, Ky., y comenzó experimentando con aire para preparar arrabio para su conversión a… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Kelly, William Russell — ▪ 1999       American businessman who in 1965 became chairman of Kelly Services, Inc., which he had founded in 1946 to provide businesses with personnel for temporary assignments; the company grew from providing the services of a few Kelly Girls… …   Universalium

  • William Kelly (inventor) — William Kelly (August 22, 1811 February 11, 1888), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was an American inventor. Kelly studied metallurgy at the Western University of Pennsylvania. Instead of getting a job as a scientist, Kelly, his brother, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Kelly — Kelly, Gene * * * (as used in expressions) Kelly, Ellsworth Kelly, Gene Eugene Curran Kelly Kelly, George George Kelly Barnes, Jr. Machine Gun Kelly Kelly, Grace Kelly, Walt(er Crawford) Kelly, William …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • William Kelly (Australian politician) — Sir William Kelly (1 December 1877 – 27 January 1960) was an Australian politician. Kelly was born in Sydney and educated at All Saints College, Bathurst, and Eton College from 1893 to 1896. He married Olive Miller (better known under the stage… …   Wikipedia

  • kelly — /kel ee/, n., pl. kellies, kellys. Slang. a man s stiff hat, as a derby or straw skimmer. [1910 15; generic use of surname Kelly, taken as representative of a stage Irishman wearing such a derby] * * * (as used in expressions) Kelly Ellsworth… …   Universalium

  • Kelly — /kel ee/, n. 1. Ellsworth, born 1923, U.S. painter and sculptor. 2. Emmett (Leo), 1898 1979, U.S. circus clown and pantomimist. 3. George (Edward), 1887 1974, U.S. playwright and actor. 4. Walt, 1913 73, U.S. cartoonist …   Universalium

  • William — /wil yeuhm/, n. 1. a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter W. 2. a male given name: from Germanic words meaning will and helmet. * * * (as used in expressions) Huddie William Ledbetter Aberhart William George William… …   Universalium

  • William — (as used in expressions) William Alexander Abbott Aberhart, William George William Russell Amis, Sir Kingsley (William) Ashley, William Henry Ashton, Sir Frederick (William Mallandaine) Barkley, Alben W(illiam) Bartram, William William Allen… …   Enciclopedia Universal