Even the discovery of stainless steel is shrouded in myth. According to legend, stainless steel was accidentally discovered in 1913 by British metallurgist Harry Brearly, when he noticed that some samples of an experimental alloy he was planning to throw away hadn’t rusted after sitting on a shelf for several months.
In fact, Brearly knew what he was doing; it had been known since the 1800s that adding chromium to steel increased its corrosion resistance, and a number of inventors around the world had already developed materials that would be considered stainless steels today before 1913. Brearly’s main contribution was realizing that these steels could be used for table cutlery.
It was Ernest Stuart, one of Brearly’s associates in the cutlery business, who came up with the term “stainless steel.”