James Fern Webster was an engineer and prolific inventor who lived and worked in the High Street, Solihull Lodge in the 1870s/80s.
He developed a process for making the extraction of aluminium sufficiently cost effective for the metal to be used in the manufacture of everyday objects, patenting a process that enabled him to sell aluminium for £4 per pound instead of the £60 per pound that it had been previously. Prior to this, aluminium was considered a precious metal, and bars of aluminium were exhibited alongside the French Crown Jewels in the Paris Exhibition of 1855.
Webster’s process was described in The British Architect of 13th July 1883 as “one of the most important modern successes.” Its effect on the German-silver, brass and copper trades was likened to the effect of the Bessemer and Martin processes on the iron and steel industries.
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