Here is a hard-to-argue fact: Without steel there would be no modern industrial world. Though the art of steel making dates back to 4000 B.C., the steel we rely so heavily on today was made possible by the development of the Bessemer process in 1856 and the first usage of the galvanizing process in 1836. These groundbreaking scientific discoveries allowed for the production of large quantities of high-quality steel at lower costs. It also marked the beginning of a switch from iron to steel and, more importantly, the start of the Second Industrial Revolution.
As has been widely documented, this boom in steel production allowed for the creation of transcontinental railroads both in America and around the globe. The connecting of once remote lands via 30,000 miles of new rails also allowed for a new era in agriculture and manufacturing. As cities grew out of this transformation, steel also allowed for the creation of high-rise living and skyscraper-filled financial districts. It was and still is a wave of overwhelming change that has little match in the history of humanity. Other interesting facts about the birth and blossoming of the modern steel industry include:
- 60% of the world’s steel is produced using the Basic Oxygen Steelmaking Process.
- Worldwide steel production has more than tripled since 1943.
- China is now the world leader in steel consumption with an amazing 623.9 million tons of steel per year. To put that number into perspective, the U.S. is second with 89.1 million tons.
- One-quarter of an average computer is made of steel!
- Steel has a great deal to do with the growth of modern medicine thanks to its role in surgical and hygienic safety equipment.
- Steel is incredibly sustainable. Over 80% of steel products are recycled.
There is no way to overstate the importance of modern steel. Its amazing combination of strength, formability and versatility, allows steel, especially galvanized steel, to continue to build the world of the present and future. If you want to learn more about the history of steel, you can always check out the website of our friends at the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).