The development of iron in the late 1600s to the early 1700s saw a series of changes, that resulted from the development of new types of fuels, and from the development of new types of iron. Initially, iron was smelted by using charcoal that was made from burning trees; however, this timber was needed for the production of homes, ships, and other industry. Abraham Darby solved this issue of limited fuel by being the first person to smelt iron using coal coke which allowed the wood to be used for other projects rather than for smelting. This development would lead to the development of cast iron and while the material was new, it was not suitable for conversion into a much stronger wrought iron. Abraham Darby’s sons, Abraham Darby II, and Abraham Darby III each contributed to society through iron development as well, with Darby the third building a bridge entirely out of 373 tons of iron and Darby the second producing iron for the new development of the steam engine.
The steam engine was marketed by Mathew Boulton, with the help of James Watts, who was the creator of the most advanced steam engine at the time. Boulton was a mastermind when it came to finding uses for the steam engine demonstrating the versatile nature of the machine. The machines could produce a wide range of items with the steam engines, everything from jewelry to coinage, and even toys. Boulton’s factories were lined with gas lamps, workers, and steam-powered machines leaving visitors awestruck.
From his achievements, Boulton developed a small circle of friends who would become known as the lunar society. These were very intelligent people that included names such as the master potter Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, and the remarkable scientist, physician and philosopher Lrasmus Darwin. All of these members met at Boultons, “Soho House” which now serves as a museum.
In the end, the oldest steam engine that was used to recover canal water would be put on display in Birmingham’s Thinktank Museum. Darby’s famous furnace would later be recovered and rebuilt from the soil where it rested, becoming a symbol of the industrial revolution.
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