Stainless Steel

Invented by Elwood Haynes, Class of 1881

Haynes is celebrated for his achievements in two major fields of technology: metallurgy and automotive engineering. His innovations in metallurgy began when he was still a student at WPI. Having become discouraged when a steel razor blade he made rusted, he set out to develop a steel alloy that would resist corrosion. In 1911, he discovered a type of stainless steel and patented it in 1919. Various claims have been made over the years about who can claim the title of inventor of stainless steel, but Haynes' patent and his writings about his years of experimental work make a strong case for awarding the title to him.

Haynes also invented a number of other important alloys, including tungsten chrome steel, a chromium and nickel alloy, and a chromium and cobalt alloy. Stellite, a cobalt-chromium-tungsten alloy, is much harder than many steels and has proved an ideal material for cutting tools. It became the best-known product of the Haynes Stellite Co., through which he commercialized many of his metallurgical discoveries.

Haynes is also credited with the development one of the first gasoline-powered cars in America. He took his horseless carriage, powered by a one-cylinder engine, for its first drive at about five or six miles per hour near Kokomo, Ind., on July 4, 1894. The car, now in the Smithsonian Institution, is the oldest American-made vehicle in existence. A monument commemorates Kokomo as "the birthplace of a new era of transportation." Haynes turned his invention into another successful business, the Haynes Motor Co.