Friday 24 October 2014

Men of Yore: Nikolai Benardos

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Nikolai Benardos
Benardos, Nikolai Nikolaevich

Born June 26 (July 8), 1842, in the village of Benardosovka, Kherson Province; died Sept. 8 (21), 1905, in Fastov, Kiev Province. Russian inventor, originator of electric arc welding.

Benardos studied at the University of Kiev and at the Petrov Agricultural and Forestry Academy in Moscow. Beginning in 1865 he made and, in part, patented in Russia and abroad more than 100 inventions in the most varied areas (agriculture, transportation, and others). In 1882 he proposed a procedure for “connecting and disconnecting metals by the direct action of an electric current” (which he named “elektrogefest”). In 1885 he patented his invention in Germany, France, Russia, Italy, England, the USA, Belgium, and other countries. The characteristic feature of this method was the utilization of the electric arc arising between a carbon electrode or one of another conductive substance and the articles processed. “Elektrogefest” was immediately used in Russia as well as abroad (in railroad workshops and in machine-building and metallurgical plants). Benardos built a special type of electrical storage battery to supply the continuous high current necessary for welding.

Benardos was also the first to invent welding with an indirect arc, welding in a gas stream, arc cutting both in ordinary conditions and under water, and the electrolytic method of coating large metal surfaces with copper. Among Benardos’ other inventions was a thermal method for electrical soldering. He created carbon electrodes of the most varied forms and electrodes made of a combination of carbon and metal. He offered one of the first designs for an alternating current hydroelectric power plant on the Neva River (1892). At the Fourth Electrical Exhibit in St. Petersburg in 1892, Benardos was awarded the highest award of the Russian Technical Society, the gold medal, for the successful utilization of the arc in his electrical welding invention. In 1899 the Electrical Engineering Institute in St. Petersburg awarded him the title of honorary electrical engineer.

Amongst 100 or more other inventions, Nikolai Bernados is credited with developing is arc-welding; a relatively un-exciting process whereby two pieces of metal are joined together.  But when you think of all the structures that you come into physical contact with on a day-to-day basis (cars, bridges, sky-scrapers etc) that have been arc-welded together then it's importance becomes much more apparent.  Even more so when you take a mental step-back and think of all the ships, rail locomotives, lorries, buildings, machinery and innumerable other devices that sustain civilisation (and the people that live in it) that have been welded together.

Making discoveries like this isn't gonna make you popular with the 'in crowd' or hipsters or girls or the chattering classes, they aren't interested in either the science & technology (unless it's trendy to be a techie) or the possibilities that it could bring (like increased productivity and freedom and human self-expression/creativity).  They are only concerned with the fruits of yours, or someone elses, labour, and they often see these fruits as impersonal 'things'/'objects' rather than as personal discoveries/creations, which causes them to have little respect for the fruit or the inventor/person who created it.  But these people aren't important.  What is important is that you're enjoying what you do, like the inventors did, like Nikolai did; that you're enjoying your work, you're work that you've engrossed yourself in (whatever it may be).  That's all that matters.  That's what inventors and innovators and other such men of science and industry do: they do what they enjoy doing and we can see what great things they resulted because of that love.


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