Top professor praises heritage

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Britain should commemorate Sheffield metallurgist Harry Brearley’s discover of stainless steel with an annual “Stainless Steel Day,” according to a man rated as one of the country’s most influential scientists.

Mark Miodownik, from University College London, says the more brilliant the innovation, the more important it is to treasure it, but the more likely it is to be taken for granted.

Professor Miodownik is a British materials scientist, engineer, broadcaster and writer, who recently presented the BBC 2 series Genius of Invention and has been included in The Times’ list of the top 100 most influential people in science.

Next Wednesday, he will be the guest speaker at a gala dinner in Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, marking the centenary of Harry Brearley’s discovery of stainless.

“Before stainless steel, everything we ate with had a taste and quite a strong taste – unless you could afford gold cutlery,” says Professor Miodownik.

“There was silver and electroplated cutlery, which hardly tasted of anything at all – but it has still got a taste.

“Nowadays, people will have a canteen of silver cutlery and they will bring it out at Christmas. What they ought to do is use the silver cutlery every day and bring the stainless steel out at Christmas, because it is a far superior material.

“We have learnt to associate the shine of stainless steel with the epitome of cleanliness. It’s indomitable. It’s good at its job. You don’t have to look after it and it will last you your whole life,” he says.

And, 100 years after Harry Brearley’s discovery, new applications for stainless steel are still being developed. “Stainless steel has still got a long way to go,” says Prof essor Miodownik.