2013 celebrates 100 years since the patenting of martensitic stainless steels.
Harry Brearley, at Firth Brown's laboratory in Sheffield, was testing different steel alloys to try to improve the rifling in gun barrels and noticed that one unsuccessful cast discarded in the company yard had not corroded after several weeks subjected to the Sheffield weather.
The vital ingredient was sufficient chromium (over 10.5%) that meant that a protective chrome oxide film was formed on the surface preventing normal rusting from taking place.
The date was June 4, 1912. Two months later, on August 20, 1912, stainless steel was cast for the first time.
Brearley patented his discovery in 1813, but by then two German metallurgists, Eduard Maurer and Benno Strauss working at the Krupp Iron Works, had patented the first austenitic stainless steel containing 21% chromium and 7% nickel.
During 2013, the British Stainless Steel Association (BSSA) will highlight 50 applications to illustrate how stainless steel has changed our lives for the better. And one of the first uses was for cutlery and this remains the standard material today.
A commemorative conference will also be held in Sheffield on 11-13 June organised by BSSA and the Sheffield Metallurgical and Engineering Association. Details at http://www.steeltimesint.com/events/view/harry-brearley-centenary-conference-and-exhibition