Andrew Carnegie was one of the first in the steel industry to realize how important chemistry was to the process. He is best known nowadays for the many buildings bearing his name. These include Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Hall, and the Carnegie Hero Fund. He gave away 94% of his fortune to charity and foundations before his death in 1919. His net worth in 2007 dollars was $298.3 billion.
He came to the US as a child of poor Scottish immigrants. His journey from immigrant to one of the most well-known and successful businessmen in history is covered in textbooks across the US. As a teen, he was secretary/ telegraph operator and from this job he learned about management and cost control. Soon Carnegie was investing and dealmaking.
He realized the growing need for steel when an investment in a farm yielded over $1 million for the petroleum in it’s oil wells. Luckily for him, he had invested in the iron industry before the war. His great success in the iron and steel industry was by adapting the Bessemer Process.
After growing Carnegie Steel he felt it was time for retirement at age 66. He created a joint venture with JP Morgan and created the United States Steel Corporation. This company was the first in the world with a market cap over $1 billion.
For all his philanthropy though, he was very tough on the workers at his steel mills. They worked 12 hours a day, all year except for the Fourth of July. Safety and worker happiness were not paramount of Carnegie’s focus on efficiency and productivity.
Some may see him as a rags to riches story, others as a demanding capitalist figure. Either way he helped shape the iron and steel industry as we know it.