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The invention of stainless steel in a fascinating story – the product of years of trial and error and one complete fluke.
Steel may be incredibly tough – not to mention ductile and tensile – but that doesn’t mean it is invincible. Steel is essentially made by adding carbon to iron, and iron inevitably will rust. For many, many years, metallurgists around the world attempted to overcome this frustrating obstacle.

Experimentation with adding other elements to iron was fairly common, with moderate success. However, it wasn’t until 1912 that a reliable method of mass-producing rust-proof steel was discovered. And it was entirely by accident.

Of course, ‘inventor’ is an ambiguous term, especially with something as ubiquitous and elementary as steel. Corrosion-resistant steel – an alloy of iron and chromium – was first recognised in 1821 by Pierre Berthier, a French metallurgist.

Despite this discovery, metallurgists of the time were unable to find the balance of high chromium and low carbon that makes modern stainless steel so effective. The products they were producing were too brittle for practical use.