Iron, in one or more of its several forms, has been used for about four thousand years, it was essential to the industrial revolution and it is still the principal metal of commerce. At first, and for centuries, ironmaking was a manual craft, the quantities were small and the metal was scarce. Then in the fifteenth century, means were devised for making iron on a larger scale and ironmaking began to develop into an industry. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries technology and the scale of production developed rapidly and new types of iron were introduced. One of these, steel, eventually took over. About the authorThe late W. V. K. Gale spent most of his working life in the iron and steel industry. He was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a past president of the Newcomen Society, the Staffordshire Iron and Steel Institute and the Historical Metallurgy Society and a member of the Institute of Materials. He was a technical adviser on iron and steel history to the Ironbridge Gorge and Black Country museums.