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Edward Riley

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Edward Riley (1831-1914), chemist of Edward Riley and Harbord

1914 Died aged 83.


1914 Obituary. [1]

Chemists and engineers all over the world will hear with regret of the death of Mr. Edward Riley, which occurred at his home at Marlow on the 12th inst.

Mr. Riley was eighty-three years of age. In giving some account of his life we cannot do better than reprint the notes on his career which we gave in our issue of May 8th last, when reporting the award to him by the Iron and Steel Institute of the Bessemer Gold Medal. Mr. Riley, in his long life, has not only seen but assisted actively in many of the most notable developments of iron and steel manufacture. He obtained his early education at King's College School and at Putney Civil Engineering College, an establishment which has long disappeared. He then became a student at the laboratory of the Board of Health under Dr. Lyon - afterwards Lord Playfair.

In 1853 he was appointed chemist at Dowlais and carried out the first experiments on the Bessemer process. The first "blow" was made in a "converter" built with fire-bricks like a chimney. It was lft. 9in. square and had two tuyeres of 1in. pipe on each side. Between two and three hundredweight of iron were blown with the cupola blast. The first piece of Bessemer steel ever forged - now a cherished possession of the Iron and Steel Institute - was made in this furnace.

As is well known, the high percentage of phosphorus and sulphur in the pig iron was inimical to the process, and it was not a success till the essential conditions were more fully understood. Mr. Riley remained three years at Dowlais and then started a private practice as analytical and consulting chemist in London, where he conducted most of the analytical work for Bessemer. From London he moved to Leeds, where he was commissioned to erect a furnace for the treatment of Norwegian titaniferous ores; he continued the experiments for some time, but they had finally to be abandoned owing to the high percentage of titanium in the ore. He then returned to London, and after a time - 1869 - moved his laboratory from Kensington to Finsbury-square, where the firm - under the name of Edward Riley and Harbord still has its headquarters . With the development of the Bessemer process came the necessity for spiegel and ferro-manganese and Mr. Riley was associated with Henderson in carrying out the analyses in connection with his process for producing ferro in the open-hearth furnace. This brought him into contact with importers and users of manganese ores, and by his reputation for accurate work he soon became the acknowledged authority in questions of dispute on the analyses of these and similar ores. In the early eighties he took out an important patent connected with basic linings. It covered the use of crude petroleum oil and tar as a binder with burnt lime or dolomite. This patent was conveyed to the patentees of the basic process for a share in their patents, and hence Mr. Riley became associated with Thomas Gilchrist. A little later, in conjunction with others, he establ ished the works of the North-Eastern Steel Company and Hickmans Limited and was a director of both companies. In the early fifties accurate methods of analysis as we understand them today in connection with both the raw materials and finished products from iron and steel works were almost unknown, and Mr. Riley was one of the pioneers in developing and perfecting methods for the accurate determination of the different constituents present. Various papers by him were read before the Chemical Society and the Iron and Steel Institute embodying methods of analyses, and although some have been modified as experience has been gained, many of them are still accepted as standard methods, and the iron and steel industry owes a great debt to the untiring and painstaking work of Mr. Riley and those who worked with him in these early years."


1914 Obituary [2]

EDWARD RILEY died at his residence, "Bohemia," Marlow Bridge, Buckinghamshire, on Saturday, September 12, at the age of eighty-three years: His health had been failing for some time past, but his faculties and memory remained unimpaired.

He was born in 1831, and was educated at King's College School, London, and at the Putney Civil Engineering College, an establishment which has long since ceased to exist. The interest he displayed in science as a youth led to his being placed as a student under Dr. Lyon Playfair (afterwards Lord Playfair) at the Library of the Board of Health.

He subsequently was appointed assistant at the Jermyn Street Library, where he remained until 1853, when he was appointed chemist to the Dowlais Ironworks in South Wales. It was while engaged in this capacity that he became associated with the first experiments carried out at those works on the Bessemer Process. These experiments were described briefly in the speech dealing with his career made by the President of the Institute, Mr. Adolphe Greiner, on the occasion of the presentation to Mr. Riley of the Bessemer Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute, at the meeting in May 1914. In 1859 Mr. Riley commenced practice in London as a consulting and analytical chemist.

He then went for some years to Leeds, where he was associated in carrying out experiments on the smelting of titaniferous iron ores; but at the end of a few years he abandoned his experiments and returned to London, where he opened a laboratory in Finsbury Square.

Amongst the many contributions he made to metallurgy were those carried out in collaboration with Mr. Henderson in respect of the manufacture of spiegeleisen and ferro-manganese; and he also played a part in the early evolution of the basic or Thomas Gilchrist process, with which he was associated. He was a recognised authority on analytical chemistry, and devised and perfected many of the methods now in current use for the estimation of the constituents of iron ores, steel, and slags. He was a Fellow of the Chemical Society and of the Institute of Chemistry, and was the author of various papers read before the former Society and before the Iron and Steel Institute.

Amongst the latter were papers on "Chromium Pig iron made by the Tasmanian Iron Company," "The Estimation of Manganese in Spiegeleisen and of Manganese and Iron in Manganiferous Iron Ores," "A Ready Means of Moulding Lime and Making Lime or Basic Bricks and Linings for Furnaces, Converters, &c.," and "Iron-Making Resources of our Colonies." He was actively engaged in the starting of the North-Eastern Steel Company, Middlesbrough, and the works of the South Staffordshire Steel Ingot Company, Limited, Bilston, now Messrs. Hickman, Limited; and was a director of both companies. In 1904 he entered into partnership with Mr. F. W. Harbord, the firm being thenceforth known as Messrs. Riley & Harbord of Victoria Street and Finsbury Circus.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute as far back as 1873, was for many years a regular attendant at its meetings, and was the recipient, in the circumstances referred to above, of the Bessemer Medal for 1914.


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