Joseph Aspdin: building construction: Reintroduction of concrete: Joseph Aspdin patented the first true artificial cement, which he called Portland Cement. Portland Cement – Joseph Aspdin. While preparing to build the Eddystone Lighthouse in , engineer John Smeaton conducted a series of experiments. Joseph Aspdin was an English cement manufacturer who obtained the patent for Portland cement on 21 October Joseph Aspdin (or Aspden) was the.
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I originally only transcribed the last entry of these, as a relatively accurate account of the early history of Portland cement as early as However, the whole exchange of letters is interesting, if only to show that little has changed in terms of the adherence of the various factions to their own anhistoric narratives.
The essence of the controversy over Joseph Aspdin concerns whether the product that he made, called Portland cement, and patented inwas only a quick-setting hydraulic lime, as made in many versions at the time, or whether it was a modern slow-setting high-strength cement such as we call Portland cement today. Hard evidence one way or the other is almost totally lacking, and the matter has remained controversial throughout nearly two centuries.
The matter was further complicated by a confusion among many writers between the work of Joseph Aspdin and that of his son, William – a confusion which the latter did his best to encourage. The following transcribes a sequence of letters that appeared in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencerin It is believed to be out of copyright.
An initial proposal to raise a monument to Joseph Aspdin, the inventor of Portland cement, is challenged because the product he made was not the important modern product. The question remains unresolved by the end of the exchange.
Johnson is mentioned tangentially by Redgrave in the second letter, his claim to all the credit for modern cement had not yet been propagated. When he later made this specious claim, the lack of any consensus about the role of the Aspdins allowed it to be accepted without challenge. Presumably due to this muddying of the waters, no memorial to Joseph Aspdin was raised, and it was not until – the centenary of Aspdin’s patent – that a memorial plaque was finally installed in Leeds Town Hall, paid for by the American Portland Cement Association.
He then set up as a consultant in London, but continued working largely overseas. I refer to Joseph Aspdin, the inventor of Portland cement. The readers of The Yorkshire Weekly Post may have noticed an interesting article during October last on this subject, written by my friend, Mr B.
I feel strongly that some effort should be made to provide some fitting memorial to Aspdin, whose invention is being utilised to a greater and wider extent day by day, not only in Europe and America, but over the whole of the globe, and the great utility of which in so many different classes of construction renders the name of Aspdin worthy to be remembered with those of Smeaton, Watt, Stephenson, Symington, Faraday, and the rest of the roll of celebrated Englishmen, whose work has so completely changed the conditions of life for the better during the past century.
An effort is being inaugurated with this view, which I trust will result successfully in perpetuating the memory of a worthy Yorkshireman, a Leeds man, and a great benefactor of the human race.
I shall be glad to receive correspondence on this subject from any of your interested readers. Two letters appeared in response.
The first was from Redgraveadding his considerable authority to the campaign. Sir,—I am heartily in accord with the proposal by your correspondent, Mr.
Pullon, in his letter of the 8th instant, that some fitting memorial should be erected to the memory of Joseph Aspdin, the inventor of the world-famed Portland cement. Many years ago, in writing on the subject of cements in The Building NewsI endeavoured to collect what was known of the history of the family, and the early struggles of the inventor Portland cement, and believe that I was the first to discover remarks in Becker’s Erfahrungen Note 4 alluded to by Mr Thwaite in his excellent article on Aspdin in your issue Note 5 of October 17th,and to translate Becker’s observations into English.
I was fortunate also in meeting koseph Mr. Johnson, one of the pioneers of the cement manufacture in this country, and from him I obtained much valuable information, also from a brother officer of General Pasley, who was familiar with the work he had carried on at Chatham. It would be interesting to ascertain whether any members of the Aspdin family still survive, who could add to the slender stock of facts qspdin have from time to time been recorded concerning the Aspdins, and which are preserved in my little treatise on cements.
I am afraid that we aspfin no portrait of the inventor or his son, William Aspdin, who was one of the earliest manufacturers of Portland cement in the London district, and all that joeph at present known of Joseph Aspdin can be summed up in a few short sentences Note 6.
It is strange how forgetful we are in this country of our great inventors, and how soon the memory of what we owe to them passes out of mind.
I will gladly add my little contribution to any fund which may be raised to do honour to Aspdin, and feel that Leeds rather than Wakefield, where he worked, should be selected as the site of the memorial. A second correspondent was obviously aroused by the somewhat ludicrous comparison with Joseph Priestley, but might have done well to sleep on it before dashing off this rather intemperate response.
Sir,—Allow me to say, in reply to Mr Pullon’s appeal in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post for a memorial to John Aspdin, that there is scarcely any ground for comparing him with Dr Joseph Priestley. We know Priestley undoubtedly was jpseph first discoverer of oxygen, although Scheele made the same discovery independently two years later, in John Aspdin was not the inventor of the material which is known today as Portland cement.
He was, moreover, anticipated in his invention by Vicat, a Frenchman whose name has come down to us as the inventor of an instrument called Vicat’s needle, used to this day in testing the hardness of cement and the stiffness of clays.
Vicat made hydraulic mortars of caustic lime and clay. John Aspdin also made a similar cement by using similar materials and he took out a patent in October,for an “improvement” in the manufacture of hydraulic mortars.
He called his product Portland cement because of the fancied josepb of articles made from it to the colour of Portland stone. He was undoubtedly the inventor of so-called “Portland cement”, and he was the first in this country to manufacture artificial cement on a large scale Note 7.
In this he was financially assisted by a Leeds gentleman, Mr Wm. Both Vicat’s and Aspdin’s cements differed greatly from the Portland cement manufactured at the present time, as the calcination of their raw material was not carried on to the point of beginning of vitrifaction, which is the main feature in cement made in order to produce a Portland cement answering to requirements of the present day.
There is no doubt, however, that Major General Sir C. Pasley carried on independent researches into the manufacture of apsdin hydraulic cement inat Chatham Dockyard, and that he was not aware of the existence of Aspdin’s cement Note 8.
After some years of unsatisfactory results, Sir C. Pasley began the use of blue Medway clay instead of some other clay that he had hitherto used. This led to such satisfactory results that he started a works which not only had the foundation of the Portland cement industry in Kent, but also in the whole world Note 9.
Sir,—I was very pleased to notice in your issue of to-day the kindly appreciative letter on the subject of the Aspdin memorial from Aspdni Gilbert R.
Joseph Aspdin’s Portland Cement
With regard to the second letter therein by Mr Hauptmann, I am quite at a loss to understand the object, and at what he is driving. He says it is in reply to mine of the 6th inst. I was not aware that there was anything controversial in my letter needing a reply. I made no comparison between Aspdin and Dr Priestley, for whom no one can have greater reverence and admiration, but after all, from the point view of direct and far-reaching material effect in ameliorating conditions and developing civilisation, Aspdin’s invention is greater than the discovery of a new gas Note This written in no sense detracting from the almost incalculable value the varied work of the great Dr Priestley.
Before Mr Hauptmann again writes on the origin of Portland cement, it would be advisable to read carefully Mr Thwaite’s article of October 17 last in the Weekly Postwhere he will find what has been said on the matter by a distinguished fellow-countryman of his own, also by a French and an Italian authority. Mr Hauptmann is not accurate with regard to Aspdin’s name, which was not John; he is, too, in error as to the origin of the name Portland cement. At first it was known by Aspdin’s name only, but it as it was used at Portland Breakwater, the construction of which occupied many years in the forties, it was afterwards called by this name Note The pioneer in the establishment of the Thames cement industry was Joseph Aspdin’s son William.
Made up in Britain: Portland Cement : Joseph Aspdin
Vicat’s invention differentiated from Aspdin’s, and while of course it would be idle to suppose that in the course of considerably more than sixty years of manufacture there should have been no researches, such as those of General Pasley and others, in addition to improvements and adaptations to modern requirements, there is no doubt Aspdin’s invention was the true Portland cement made in by the calcination to a sufficient degree Note 13 of calcareous and argillaceous elements, in their proper ratio of composition, from very first.
It was made at the small works at Wakefield Note 14the first in history, which are still, I believe, in operation, and Mr Hauptmann must prove that any radical change has been made in the process of manufacture since the date the works were established before he depreciates with what object I cannot conceive the pioneer work this son of Leeds, who was not only the inventor of Portland cement, but developed the manufacture up to the level of a successful commercial operation of untold importance.
Thwaite was a civil engineer, concerning himself with gas generation, electric power and gas engines. He collaborated with Ransome in his attempt to construct a rotary kiln. Sir,—It is certain that if the measure of the value of Joseph Aspdin’s work could be adequately appreciated, his name would be for ever associated with those of the great heroes of practical science whose labour and results illuminated the last century.
Among all the famous sons of Leeds, none more thoroughly deserve sic some form of plastic or memorial recognition, and in honouring Joseph Aspdin’s name, Leeds men will honour their city, and doing so will honour themselves. Any one who understands the practical science of cement-making, can easily appreciate Note 15 the indomitable patience, the vexatious trials, and the personal and family sacrifices involved in the years of work intervening between the date of the conception of the idea—— and the yearwhen Aspdin applied for his patent.
This actual patent document, I am given to understand, is in the possession of Aspdin’s grandson, now living near Leeds Note This work of development, which formed the prelude to the patent ofcan only be understood when the contemporary knowledge of practical and industrial science is taken into consideration, and it known that the work was done at a time following on the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when it would be impossible Note 17 for Joseph Aspdin, the Leeds bricklayer and mason, to have heard or learnt what the French chemists had done or were doing in the direction of cement-making, and in attempting to discover the secret hidden in the cemented joints of old Roman structures Note From my own experiments in collaboration with the late Frederick Ransom, A.
I am satisfied that Joseph Aspdin, in his early experiments, extending from tohad produced intermittently the genuine Portland cement clinker, but the production of a perfect uniformity of cementitious product would be the difficulty Note 22and it is to Aspdin’s great credit that he struggled on through long years until he obtained the result that satisfied the great civil engineers of the railway era, including among them Brunel, who employed Aspdin’s cement in the construction of the Thames Tunnel, commenced in Note Had this Aspdin’s cement been of the quick-setting, non-vitrified or irregular quality, its treacherous character would have been discovered as far back as seventy years ago Note As my article in The Yorkshire Weekly Post of October 15,explained, not only did Aspdin’s cement satisfy our great constructional engineers of the early 19th century, but satisfied Sir Robert Peel, who was greatly impressed with its high quality and national importance Note It is pleasant to realise that some foreigners, even Germansare sufficiently magnanimous to admit that Britishers have done something in practical and constructional science and invention.
Candlot, the French authority, in work on Cimentspublished in Paris indoes practically the same; and Professor Busing in his work on Der Portland Cementpublished in Berlin ingives credit to Aspdin for employing the high temperatures necessary to produce Portland cement clinker bei sehr hoher temperatur einen vorzuglichen hydraulischen Kalk zu erzeugen welchen er Portland Cement nannte Note Fourteen years ago the Italian authority Cardi, in his work on Esperimente sulle Cementgives England the credit for producing cement a lente presa.
Had French cement manufacturers believed they could justly claim the credit of the invention for one of their own countrymen, they would have named it after Vicat, but Aspdin’s cement is known all over the world by the name Portland cement. The justice of Aspdin’s right to the credit of the invention and the commercial perfection its manufacture can be found in most of the great engineering constructional works produced in the Victorian Era.
Aspdin’s cement, all along, has been the true Portland cement. Samples of under-burnt material may have been sold, and applied to artistic and other irresponsible applications, but I am confident not with the sanction of Joseph Aspdin. I sincerely trust that the natives of Leeds will see that the genius who produced the cement that rivals that of old Rome will do justice to themselves and their city by perpetuating his name in a suitable manner in some conspicuous position in the good old town.
The final letter of those I have found was a relatively well-informed summary of the facts, making clear that a sceptical view of Joseph Aspdin’s contribution was already well-established in Sir, — The following facts may be of interest in reference to recent correspondence in your paper on the subject of a proposed Aspdin Memorial Note In the yearthe important action of clays in natural or artificial conjunction with carbonate of lime in the production of hydraulic or water resisting cement was first demonstrated by Smeatonand utilised by him in the construction of the original Eddystone Lighthouse.
The principle was afterwards applied experimentally by Mr. Vicatin France, inand further developed by Pasley and Frost in this country about the year Pasley is said have been the first to use Medway clay in the manufacture of hydraulic cement at Chatham, and very shortly afterwards Frost started the manufacture on a commercial scale at Greenhithe, Kent, on the actual site of the present well-known works associated with Messrs. The patent specification of Joseph Aspdin, the bricklayer, of Leeds, is dated December 15th,but was clearly anticipated in by patents granted to Edgar Dobbs, of Southwark, and also in by a patent granted to Maurice St.
In all these patents the claim relates to the manufacture of cement by a suitable mixture of lime or carbonate of lime with clay or other substances containing alumina and silica; the mixture being afterwards burnt in kilns and ground to powder. It is, however, certain that neither Joseph Aspdin nor his predecessors attempted to burn the mixed materials to the point of vitrefaction sic – an essential feature in the manufacture of what is now known as Portland cement.
This appears to have been first adopted by a son of Joseph Aspdin Note 30who about Note 31 was engaged at the works known as Robins’sat Northfleet, in Kent, now the property of the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Limited ; at these works the kilns erected by the younger Aspdin are still in existence Note The materials used were the local chalk and alluvial clay still employed in the neighbourhood by the largest makers Portland cement.
At an early stage the manufacture as carried on at Northfleet was developed and improved upon Note 33 by Messrs.
White, the successors of Frost at Greenhithe, and by Messrs. Francis, at Cliffeand Hilton and Andersonon the Aspdkn.
Joseph Aspdin Memorial
So far as Joseph Aspdin is concerned, apart from the name “Portland cement,” which he adopted in his specification from a fancied resemblance of the cement to Portland stone, he can only be said to have worked somewhat crudely on the lines of his predecessor and contemporaries, and the material which he produced was simple an artificially manufactured josepy lime.
We may, aspvin, be content in recognising aspdiin Portland cement is essentially an English invention, which has been developed to the degree of excellence now attained by the best makers in the country and locality of its origin.
The memorial of its founders may be seen in the great constructive works joeph the last half-century throughout all parts of the world, and that its pioneers are still abreast of the times is evidenced by the fact that the most extensive modern plant in Europe is now in operation at White’s works at Greenhithe, where Frost made his experiments, and in close proximity to the old kilns of Robins’s works, where Portland cement was first produced on a commercial scale.
Thwaite’s article reiterated the biographical details given by Redgrave in his 1st edition. In a sense, the lack of details is the most persuasive evidence.
Joseph Aspdin | British mason |
Joseph Aspdin was most probably not remarked josepg because he was unremarkable. In fact, Pasley was not greatly aware of anything – as late ashe was saying that there were only three “artificial cement” makers in England – one Portland cement, one making a selenitic cement and one making a Blue Lias lime. In fact there were many others. So Pasley’s impressions don’t add much to our knowledge.