Still the Iron Age

Still the Iron Age

Iron and Steel in the Modern World

1st Edition - January 22, 2016

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  • Author: Vaclav Smil
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128042335
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128042359

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Although the last two generations have seen an enormous amount of attention paid to advances in electronics, the fact remains that high-income, high-energy societies could thrive without microchips, etc., but, by contrast, could not exist without steel. Because of the importance of this material to comtemporary civilization, a comprehensive resource is needed for metallurgists, non-metallurgists, and anyone with a background in environmental studies, industry, manufacturing, and history, seeking a broader understanding of the history of iron and steel and its current and future impact on society. Given its coverage of the history of iron and steel from its genesis to slow pre-industrial progress, revolutionary advances during the 19th century, magnification of 19th century advances during the past five generations, patterns of modern steel production, the ubiquitous uses of the material, potential substitutions, advances in relative dematerialization, and appraisal of steel’s possible futures, Still the Iron Age: Iron and Steel in the Modern World by world-renowned author Vaclav Smil meets that need.

Key Features

  • Incorporates an interdisciplinary discussion of the history and evolution of the iron- and steel-making industry and its impact on the development of the modern world
  • Serves as a valuable contribution because of its unique perspective that compares steel to technological advances in other materials, perceived to be important
  • Discusses how we can manufacture smarter rather than deny demand
  • Explores future opportunities and new efforts for sustainable development in the industry


This book would be of interest to metallurgists and non-metallurgists seeking a broader understanding of the history of steel and iron and their current and future impact on society as well as readers with backgrounds in environmental studies, industry, manufacturing and history.

Table of Contents

    • Preface and Acknowledgments
    • Previous Works by The Author
    • Chapter 1. Iron and Steel Before the Eighteenth Century: Slow Adoption, Artisanal Production, and Scaling-Up
      • Abstract
      • Bloomery Iron
      • Blast Furnaces
      • Charcoal
      • Premodern Steel
    • Chapter 2. Rise of Modern Ferrous Metallurgy, 1700–1850: Coke, Blast Furnaces, and Expensive Steel
      • Abstract
      • European and British Ironmaking before 1750
      • British Transition to Coke
      • Larger Furnaces and Hot Blast
      • Wrought Iron
    • Chapter 3. Iron and Steel Before WW I, 1850–1914: The Age of Affordable Steel
      • Abstract
      • Blast Furnaces
      • Inexpensive Steel: Bessemer Converters and Open Hearths
      • New Markets for Steel
      • Steel in Transportation and Construction
    • Chapter 4. A Century of Advances, 1914–2014: Changing Leadership in Iron and Steel Industry
      • Abstract
      • From WW I to the End of WW II
      • America’s Postwar Retreat
      • Japan in the Lead
      • Chinese Dominance
    • Chapter 5. Modern Ironmaking and Steelmaking: Furnaces, Processes, and Casting
      • Abstract
      • New Blast Furnaces
      • Direct Reduced Iron
      • Basic Oxygen Furnaces
      • Electric Arc Furnaces
      • Continuous Casting
      • Diffusion and Improvements
    • Chapter 6. Materials in Modern Iron and Steel Production: Ores, Coke, Fluxes, Scrap, and Other Inputs
      • Abstract
      • Materials for BFS and BOFS
      • Material Balances of Integrated Steelmaking
      • Steel Scrap
      • Material Balances of EAFs
    • Chapter 7. Energy Costs and Environmental Impacts of Iron and Steel Production: Fuels, Electricity, Atmospheric Emissions, and Waste Streams
      • Abstract
      • Energy Accounting
      • Energy Cost of Steelmaking
      • Air and Water Pollution and Solid Wastes
      • Life Cycle Assessments
    • Chapter 8. Ubiquitous Uses of Steel: Sectoral Consumption and the Quest for Quality
      • Abstract
      • Infrastructures and Buildings
      • Fuels and Electricity
      • Transportation
      • Industrial Equipment and Consumer Products
    • Chapter 9. Looking Back: Advances, Flows and Stocks
      • Abstract
      • A Century and a Half of Modern Steel
      • Industry’s State
      • Flows and Consumption Rates
      • Steel Stocks
    • Chapter 10. Looking Ahead: The Future of Iron and Steel
      • Abstract
      • Substitutions
      • Dematerialization
      • New Processes
      • Future Requirements
    • Appendix A. Units and Their Multiples and Submultiples
      • Basic SI Units
      • Other Units Used in the Text
      • Multiples Used in the SI
      • Submultiples Used in the SI
    • Appendix B. Some Basic Terms
    • Appendix C. Global and National Production of Pig Iron and Steel, 1800–2015
    • Appendix D. Production of Crude Steel, 1900–2014 (All figures in Mt/year)
    • References
    • Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 280
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Butterworth-Heinemann 2016
  • Published: January 22, 2016
  • Imprint: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128042335
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128042359

About the Author

Vaclav Smil

Vaclav Smil is active in interdisciplinary research in the fields of materials, energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. His research areas span throughout the sciences. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2010 he was listed by Foreign Policy among the top 100 global thinkers. He was the first non-American to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

He has worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions, has been an invited speaker in nearly 400 conferences and workshops in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, and has lectured at many universities in North America, Europe and East Asia. Lastly, in 2013 he had the distinction having Bill Gates state that “There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil” in an article that appeared in

Affiliations and Expertise

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), Canada

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