Alexander Lyman Holley

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Washington Square bust

Alexander Lyman Holley (20 July 1832 – 29 January 1882) was a mechanical engineer and was considered the foremost steel and plant engineer and designer of his time, especially in regard to applying research to modern steel manufacturing processes. He received 15 patents, 10 for improvements in the Bessemer process, which he purchased the rights to in 1863 and brought to the United States. He soon designed and built Bessemer plants in Troy, New York, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He planned or was consulted on a dozen others. He chaired the first meeting of the founders of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the offices of the American Machinist on 16 February 1880, and is credited for establishing the intellectual boundaries of the mechanical engineering profession and ASME.

Biography[edit]

He was born on 20 July 1832 in Lakeville, Connecticut and attended Brown University.

During his early 20s, Holley was a close friend of Zerah Colburn, the well-known locomotive engineer and journalist/publisher. In 1857, the two visited Britain and France and compiled a report for the presidents of American railroads, The Permanent Way. In 1860, the two traveled together on the maiden voyage of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Eastern. Holley's most famous book, Armor, followed a visit he made to Britain in 1863 when he again met Zerah Colburn.

He chaired the first meeting of the founders of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in the offices of the American Machinist on 16 February 1880.

He died in Brooklyn, New York on 29 January 1882.

Legacy[edit]

The Holley medal is given out by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in his honor. He received many honors, including being made an honorary member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1892; and in 1890 a monument was unveiled in Washington Square Park, New York bearing a bust of him.

References[edit]

  • Thomas J. Misa, A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, 1865-1925 (1995): chapter on Holley and Bessemer process online
  • ASME History and Heritage (1980). Mechanical Engineers in America Born Prior to 1861: A Biographical Dictionary. ASME, New York. Library of Congress No. 79-57364.
  • Mortimer, John, Zerah Colburn: The Spirit of Darkness Arima Publishing ISBN 1-84549-024-X
  • "Living and Dead Honored", New York Times, October 3, 1890, pg 5
  • ASME Honorary Members