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Jacob G. Willans

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Jacob G. Willans (1817-1884)


1884 Obituary [1]

JACOB G. WILLANS, who died at his residence, Hampstead, London, on the 17th November 1884, was born on the 31st January 1817, and was the second son of Mr. Thomas Willans, woollen manufacturer, of the Hibernia Mills, Dublin and Leeds.

The deceased was well known in the iron and steel trades, both for the numerous inventions which he patented, bearing more or less upon these manufactures, and for the enterprise which he showed in developing and bringing into practical use the now well-known deposits of aluminous ore, near Belfast, which he claimed to have discovered in 1857. This ore is now generally used in small proportions in the blast furnaces of the West Coast of England; and its production has increased from 77,000 tons in 1870, to 146,000 tons in 1883.

Among the metallurgical processes for which the late Mt Willans obtained patents, was one for the employment of peat in charcoal furnaces, and another for the smelting of refractory and friable ores in specially constructed furnaces, the latter having been the subject of experiments at Widnes, in Lancashire, for several years.

In 1873 Mr. Willans designed a modification of the Uchatius process (The Uchatius process consisted in running molten pig iron into cold water, whereby it became granulated, and after mixing it with a certain proportion of pulverised oxide of iron and some alkaline earths, it was melted in ordinary crucibles) of making steel, which he installed at his Spanish steelworks in Sheffield, and carried on continuously from that year until the time of his death. The Uchatius process was patented by its inventor in 1855, and in 1857 and 1858 a series of experiments were carried out at the Newborn Steelworks, Newcastle-on-Tyne, to test its value; but although it was found that it enabled steel to be produced at a cheaper rate than the ordinary crucible process, there were mechanical defects that caused it to be discontinued. Mr. Willans, however, persevered with his modified Uchatius system until he made it what he claimed to be a commercial success.

In 1882 Mr. Willans brought forward a scheme for smelting at Belfast the pisolitic or aluminous iron ores of Antrim, in which he held a considerable interest. His figures showed that by importing Scotch coal from Glasgow, pig iron should be made at Belfast for £1, 18s. per ton, which he claimed to be 13s. 2d. per ton less for materials alone, than the cost of smelting hematite ore in Cumberland. Mr. Willans' proposal, however, never got as far as a practical test.

Mr. Willans was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1870, and regularly attended the London meetings, but he never took any active part in its proceedings.


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