History of Concrete

The ancient Romans developed cement and concrete similar to the kinds used today. Their cement had such great durability that some of their buildings, roads, and bridges still exist. To make cement, the Romans mixed slaked lime (lime to which water has been added) with a volcanic ash called pozzuolana. The ash produced a hydraulic cement that hardened under water. People lost the art of making cement after the fall of the Roman Empire in the A.D. 400’s. In 1756, John Smeaton, a British engineer, again found how to make cement.
Construction of the Erie Canal created the first big demand for cement in the United States. In 1818, Canvass White, an American engineer, discovered rock in Madison County, New York, that made natural hydraulic cement with little processing. Cement made from this rock was used in building the canal.

Portland cement

Joseph Aspdin, a British bricklayer, invented portland cement in 1824 and gave the cement its name. Aspdin made a cement that was superior to natural cement by mixing, grinding, burning, and regrinding amounts of limestone and clay. David 0. Saylor probably established the first portland cement plant in the United States at Coplay, Pennsylvania, in 1871.
Joseph Aspdin, a British bricklayer, invented portland cement in 1824 and gave the cement its name. Aspdin made a cement that was superior to natural cement by mixing, grinding, burning, and regrinding amounts of limestone and clay. David 0. Saylor probably established the first portland cement plant in the United States at Coplay, Pennsylvania, in 1871.
At first, portland cement manufacturers developed their own formulas. In 1898, manufacturers used 91 different formulas. In 1917, the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Bureau of Standards and Technology) and the American Society for Testing Materials established a standard formula for portland cement. The Portland Cement Association was formed in Chicago in 1916. Its research laboratories perfected air-entrained concrete in the early 1940’s.
Joseph Monier, a French gardener, developed reinforced concrete about 1850. In 1927, Eugene Freyssinet, a French engineer, developed prestressed concrete.

The cement and concrete industry

The United States produces about 156 billion pounds (71 billion kilograms) of portland cement a year, which is about 7 percent of the world’s total. Other major cement producers include China, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Russia. The leading states are California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The production of ready-mixed concrete ranks as the biggest single concrete industry in North America. About 4,000 U.S. firms and about 1,200 Canadian firms produce ready-mixed concrete. More than 60 percent of the cement produced in the United States is sold to ready-mix producers. The second largest branch of the concrete industry is the manufacture of precast concrete for construction.


Contributor: John A. Neal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Civil Engineering, State Univ. of New York, Buffalo.
From World Book C 2000 World Book, Inc., 233 N. Michigan, Chicago, IL 60601. All rights reserved.

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