Isaac Charles Johnson

Isaac Charles Johnson

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Isaac Charles Johnson was a British cement manufacturer, and a pioneer of the Portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...


He was born in London. His father was a charge-hand at Francis & White's "Roman Cement
Roman cement
For the architectural material actually used by the ancient Romans, see Roman concrete."Roman cement" is a substance developed by James Parker in the 1780s, and finally patented in 1796...

" plant in Nine Elms. He himself worked there as a labourer from age 16 while studying chemistry. In 1833 he became manager of John Bazeley White's cement plant at Swanscombe
Swanscombe is a small town, part of the Borough of Dartford on the north Kent coast in England. It is part of the civil parish of Swanscombe and Greenhithe.-Prehistory:...

 on the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 which at that time was producing "Artificial Cement" and "Roman Cement". Joseph Aspdin's product was successful but very expensive,and was later improved independently by his son William. Johnson set to work trying to discover its composition but because Aspdin's product was protected by explicit patents and extreme secrecy it was impossible to market a copy. After nearly two years' work, he succeeded and started marketing his own considerably improved version. Johnson, a highly moral man, Mayor of Gateshead and a JP, was able to claim that he was the inventor of "true" Portland cement and is generally recognised as such. See the link for Johnson's account of this work. Aspdin however was driven out of business by financial problems caused by the success of Johnsons superior and cheaper product and this led to Johnson taking over Aspdins Cement works at Gateshead. Unfortunately this resulted in a very bitter Aspdin making wild and vitriolic charges of how his product had been copied. Johnson left J B White's shortly afterwards, and, setting up his own company, established a succession of cement plants at Frindsbury
Frindsbury is part of the Medway Towns conurbation in Kent, southern England. It lies on the opposite side of the River Medway to Rochester, and at various times in its history has been considered fully or partially part of the City of Rochester. Frindsbury refers to both a parish and a manor....

, Cliffe
Cliffe, Kent
Cliffe is a village on the Hoo peninsula in Kent, England, reached from the Medway Towns by a three-mile journey along the B2000. Situated upon a low chalk escarpment overlooking the Thames marshes, Cliffe offers the adventurous rambler views of Southend-on-Sea and London...

 and Greenhithe
Greenhithe is a town in Dartford District of Kent, England. It forms part of the civil parish of Swanscombe and Greenhithe.Greenhithe, as it is spelled today, is located where it was possible to build wharves for transshipping corn, wood and other commodities; its largest cargoes were of chalk and...

 in Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, and acquired William Aspdin's plant at Gateshead
Gateshead is a town in Tyne and Wear, England and is the main settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead. Historically a part of County Durham, it lies on the southern bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle upon Tyne and together they form the urban core of Tyneside...

, County Durham
County Durham
County Durham is a ceremonial county and unitary district in north east England. The county town is Durham. The largest settlement in the ceremonial county is the town of Darlington...

. He pioneered several innovations, including the production of low-water rawmix slurries, and new designs for kilns and industrial chimneys. His company remained a relatively large and successful player in the British cement industry for the next 60 years. The Greenhithe plant was uprated with rotary kiln
Rotary kiln
A Rotary kiln is a pyroprocessing device used to raise materials to a high temperature in a continuous process. Materials produced using rotary kilns include:* Cement* Lime* Refractories* Metakaolin* Titanium dioxide* Alumina* Vermiculite...

s in 1901. In 1911 I C Johnson & Co became a part of the Blue Circle Group
Blue Circle Industries
Blue Circle Industries was a British public company manufacturing cement. It was founded in 1900, and was bought out by the French company Lafarge in 2001.-History:...

, and his Greenhithe plant remained in operation until 1971. In 1910 on his 100 birthday Johnson was presented with a silver tea service by representatives of the cement industry in Britain and several European Countries.

He wrote an autobiography, published after his death.