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George James Snelus

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George James Snelus (1837-1906)

1883 General Manager of West Cumberland Iron and Steel Co.[1]


1906 Obituary [2]

GEORGE JAMES SNELUS, F.R.S., was born in Camden Town, London, on 25th June 1837.

His early education was received at St. John's College, Battersea, after which he attended the lectures of Sir Henry Roscoe at Owens College.

In 1864 he obtained a Royal Albert Scholarship at the Royal School of Mines, where he attended the lectures of Dr. Percy, and obtained the De la Bache medal for Mining in 1867. The ability shown by him as a metallurgical chemist led Dr. Percy to recommend him to Mr. Menelaus, who was then manager of the Dowlais Iron Works, as chemist to the establishment; and during the five years he remained there he had an admirable opportunity of completing his metallurgical training by the practical experience incidental to his duties.

He took such good advantage of these opportunities that in 1871 he was appointed by the Council of the Iron and Steel Institute to go to the United States and report on the value and importance of the Danks system of puddling, a process at that time creating great interest in the iron industry.

His chief claim to distinction rests on his experiments and discoveries in connection with the basic process of steel-making. When investigating the chemistry of the Danks process he discovered a fact which till then had been unknown, that phosphorus could be removed from iron while the latter was in a molten state. It was found that lime could be burnt at high temperature so as to be impervious to water.

The next step was the use of the over-burnt lime as a lining for the Bessemer converter, as this material would not be acted upon by a basic slag, and in this way phosphorus could be removed.

He patented his process in England in 1872, and applied for a German patent, which was refused.

He did not however follow up his discovery owing to want of time, which remained dormant until its rediscovery by Mr. Sidney G. Thomas, who, with Mr. Percy C. Gilchrist, brought the basic process to a successful industrial issue.

He was an original member of the Iron and Steel Institute when it was founded in 1869, and contributed many Papers to its Journal. He was a very regular attendant at the Meetings and took a keen interest in the development of the Institute, on the Council of which he was elected a Member in 1881, and by which he was awarded the Bessemer gold medal for being the first to make pure steel in a basic-lined converter. At a later date he became a Vice-President.

The subjects on which he wrote and spoke were most numerous, embracing such questions as the analysis of blast-furnace gases, the basic dephosphorising process, the condition of carbon in steel, designing ingot moulds for steel-rail ingots, the direct working of metal from the blast-furnace, the manufacture and use of spiegeleisen, the utilisation of slag, and many kindred topics. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1887. At the Inventions Exhibition in 1885 and the Paris Exhibition of 1889 he received gold medals for his discoveries.

His death took place at his residence, Ennerdale Hall, Frizington, Cumberland, on 18th June 1906, in his sixty-ninth year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1883.


1906 Obituary [3]

. . . born on June 25th. 1837 in Camden Town . . . Royal School of Mines . . . Iron and Steel Institute . . [more]


1906 Obituary [4]

GEORGE JAMES SNELUS, Vice-President, died at his residence, Ennerdale Hall, Frizington, Cumberland, on June 18, 1906, aged sixty-nine. Mr. Snelus was born on June 25, 1837, in Camden Town, London. While acting as a teacher, a profession for which he was trained at St. John's College, Battersea, he attended lectures at Owens College, Manchester, and subsequently, having in 1864 obtained a Royal Albert scholarship, he studied at the Royal School of Mines, where he obtained the Associateship in metallurgy and in mining, and was awarded the De la Beche medal for mining. At the end of his three years' course he was recommended by Dr. Percy for the post of chemist at the Dowlais Works, where he remained four and a half years.

In 1871 he was selected by the Iron and Steel Institute to visit the United States and report on the chemistry of the Danks rotary puddling furnace. The observations he made there led him to the conclusion that phosphorus could be removed from iron while the metal was in a molten state. Experiments, made as the result of a discussion with Sir Lowthian Bell, having shown him that lime could be burned at a high temperature so as to be impervious to water, it occurred to him that, if he used lime so over-burnt for lining the Bessemer converter, he would get a basic lining which would not be acted upon by a basic slag, and so would be able to eliminate the phosphorus during the Bessemer process. He took out an English patent for this idea in 1872, though he was unable to get one in Germany, and shortly afterwards experimentally proved the correctness of his surmise. But the invention did not at first make rapid progress in his hands, and it was not till after the work of Sidney Thomas and Percy Gilchrist that the basic process came into commercial operation. The Iron and Steel Institute, however, recognised the part which Mr. Snelus had played in developing that process, by awarding him, jointly with Sidney Thomas, their Bessemer medal, in 1883. He was also awarded gold medals for his invention at the Inventions Exhibition in 1885, and at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, and a silver medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1887. ...[more]


1906 Obituary [5]



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