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Joseph Monier (born 8 November 1823, Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, France, died 13 March 1906, Paris) was a French gardener and one of the pioneers of reinforced concrete.
As a gardener, Monier experimented in making pots and tubs from concrete. Results were unsatisfactory, so in order to strengthen them he embedded iron mesh. He was not the first to experiment with reinforced concrete, but he saw some of the possibilities in the technique, and promoted it extensively.
Monier exhibited his invention at the Paris Exposition of 1867. He obtained his first patent on 16 July 1867, on iron-reinforced troughs for horticulture. He continued to find new uses for the material, and obtained more patents — iron-reinforced concrete pipes and basins (1868); iron-reinforced concrete panels for building façades (1869); bridges made of iron-reinforced concrete (1873); reinforced concrete beams (1878). In 1875, the first iron-reinforced concrete bridge ever built was constructed at the Castle of Chazelet. Monier was the designer.
The important point of Monier's idea was that it combined steel and concrete in such a way that the best qualities of each material were brought into play. Concrete is easily procured and shaped. It has considerable compressive or crushing strength, but is somewhat deficient in shearing strength, and distinctly weak in tensile or pulling strength. Steel, on the other hand, is easily procurable in simple forms such as long bars, and is extremely strong. But it is difficult and expensive to work up into customized forms. Concrete had been avoided for making beams, slabs and thin walls because of its poor tensile strength. But if a concrete slab is reinforced with a network of small steel rods on its undersurface where the tensile stresses occur, its strength will be enormously increased.
François Hennébique saw Monier's reinforced concrete tubs and tanks at the Paris Exposition and began experimenting with ways to apply this new material to building construction. He set up his own firm the same year and in 1892 he patented a complete building system using the material.
In 1885 German engineer Gustav Adolf Wayss (1851–1917) bought Monier's patent and developed it further. He conducted further research in the use of reinforced concrete as a building material.
The above information is condensed from the Wikipedia entry.
The Monier system quickly spread. In 1875 the first reinforced concrete bridge was built, in the park of the Marquis Tilière de Chazelet at Chazelet, near Bourges. The bridge had a shallow arch with a span of 16.5 metres. Its parapet was also made out of reinforced concrete. The bridge still exists.
Note: French engineer Joseph-Louis Lambot (1814–1887) was the first person known to have seriously considered using a combination of iron rods and concrete. In 1841 he constructed the first ferro-cement water tanks on his family estate in the south of France. In 1848 he built a ferro-cement boat, which he patented in 1855.