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British Industrial History

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David Mushet

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David Mushet (c1772-1847)

1791 Started work at the Clyde Iron Works at the age of 19, as a clerk in the Accounts Branch. He became interested in metallurgy and was allowed to carry out experiments in his spare time.

1800 Mushet was dismissed from the Clyde Iron Works

He moved to the Calder Iron Works where he was until 1805[1]

He then moved to Derbyshire and was at the Alfreton Iron Works in 1808, where he presumably knew the proprietors who included Robert Forester Forester.

1810 Moved to Coleford in the Forest of Dean until 1823.

1811 Birth of his son Robert Forester Mushet

David Mushet was the father of Robert Forester Mushet, an even more famous metallurgist who improved the Bessemer process and went on to develop tool steels, wear resistant rails and other steel alloys.

David Mushet contributed many valuable papers on the nature of metals and also discovered the native Black Band ironstone in North Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Stirlingshire that later helped lead to the meteoric rise in the Scottish Iron industry, particularly in the Coatbridge area. This was primarily lead by the invention of the hot blast process at Clyde Iron Works, in 1828, by the Glasgow engineer, James Beaumont Neilson, which transformed the cost of iron production.

1838 David Mushet of Coleford, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[2]

1848 Q2. Died

1855 A number of letters published by DM


1848 Obituary [3]

Mr. David Mushet early imbibed a taste for mineralogical and metallurgical pursuits, which he cultivated to the greatest extent, indeed, in many of his views respecting the smelting and manipulation of metals, he was far in advance of the period in which he lived, and to the result of his researches, the world is indebted for many of the improvements introduced in the iron and copper trades, and which have even been patented by other persons, without any benefit accruing to Mr. Mushet.

This is, however, but too commonly the case with men of genius, who appear to be sent as pioneers, to clear the obstructions from the path of the more matter of fact, but not less meritorious, practical men, who find their industry solidly rewarded, whilst even the bare credit of the discovery, is sometimes withheld from the original inventors.

The discovery by Mr. Mushet of the black-band iron ore in Scotland, and, subsequently, in South Wales, may be given as an instance of the manufacturing prosperity of whole districts being advanced by a discovery, which never produced him even a vote of thanks from those who were enriched by it.

His investigations into the changes during processes of smelting and working metals were acute, and produced some good practical results; that into the causes of red-shortness and cold-shortness in bar-iron may be particularly mentioned, because of the simple and easy methods he pointed out for remedying those defects.

As an Iron Master in Scotland, in Derbyshire, and in the Forest of Dean, and during his connexion with the British Iron Company, as well as when he was consulted by various foreign Governments, and by private individuals, on practical questions, he had ample opportunities, not only for experiments on a large scale; but also for collecting information, which he used in numerous well written and useful articles in the Encyclopedias and Periodicals, and in his Papers on Iron and Steel.

He has left a large collection of MSS., relative to the processes of iron-making and metallurgy generally, which it is hoped some of his talented family will collate and give to the world, as there have been few experimentalists whose researches were carried on with such indefatigable industry and perseverance, and yet of whose labours so little is really known.

Mr. Mushet's career, although eminently active and useful, during stirring and eventful times, was not as fortunate as it deserved; but, he was as highly esteemed by all who knew him in private life, as he was admired for his talents and acquirements in his public career.


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