Henry Cort, an English inventor, born at Lancaster in 1740, died in 1800. He established himself as an iron merchant at Gosport, and afterward erected iron works at Fontley, near that town, where he expended upward of £20,000 in perfecting processes for puddling and rolling iron. His experiments were successful, in spite of the opposition of the most powerful iron masters of England, and on June 17, 1783, a patent was granted to him "for machinery, furnace, and apparatus, for preparing, welding, and working various sorts of iron;" and a second patent on Feb. 14, 1784, "for shingling, welding, and manufacturing iron and steel into bars, plates, and rods of purer quality and in larger quantity than heretofore, by a more effectual application of fire and machinery." He took into partnership Adam Jellicoe, chief clerk in the office of the paymaster of the navy, and for some time, by contracts with the government, and by other extensive operations, the iron works were placed in a highly flourishing condition. But after his partner's death the navy board seized the works for claims against Jellicoe, involving Cort in onerous lawsuits, and eventually in total ruin.

He was compelled to accept employment as superintendent of the works of the same iron masters whom he had enriched by his life-long labors, who secured his services under the promise of aiding him in the recovery of his own establishment; but these promises were never redeemed, and the only compensation which he received was a pension of £200 granted to him by the government in 1794. He has been called the "father of the British iron trade".