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Coke and iron.

Iron ore had required the carbon and the high temperatures of burning charcoal ever since iron-smelting had begun over three thousand years before (see 1000 B.C.). In England, however, the price of charcoal was climbing out of sight as the forests dwindled. Coke had been produced for half a century or more but its use in iron-smelting had not been worked out.

The British ironworks master Abraham Darby (1678-1717) made the first successful use of coke in iron-smelting in 1709. In fact, he found that lumps of coke were stronger than lumps of charcoal and could support a larger charge of iron ore, so that iron could actually be produced at a faster rate. A larger furnace meant more draft and a hotter fire so that iron production was improved still further.

In short, Great Britain was now producing the best and most iron in the world, and since iron could be used for building machinery of all kinds, thanks to its combination of strength and cheapness, Great Britain was set for what would be called the Industrial Revolution.

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Author:Asimov, Isaac
Publication:Asimov's Chronology of Science & Discovery, Updated ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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