Abraham Darby was born in the Midlands into a Quaker family. His advances in manufacturing iron were a key factor in the industrial revolution, influencing how we live today.
He began a tradition of ironmaking that lasted four generations. The family’s scientific and industrial advances helped shape Britain’s role in the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Abraham Darby was apprenticed to Jonathan Freeth, who made malt mills for brewing beer. In Bristol, he shifted to brass casting and joined other Quakers to found the Bristol Brass Company. Their technological and industrial understanding transformed Britain into a brass exporter.
Fellow Quaker John Thomas experimented with making cast iron hollowware. In 1707, they patented their innovative sand casting method, later used in the production of steam engines.
Having moved to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, Darby developed a method of producing pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal. The change of fuel was a major breakthrough and the consequent mass production of iron accelerated the industrial revolution.
Abraham Darby’s success was in part down to the strong Quaker business network from which he received great financial backing.
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