Sir John Brown (1816-1896), English armour plate manufacturer, was born at Sheffield on the 6th of December 1816, the son of a slater. He was apprenticed when fourteen years old to a Sheffield firm who manufactured files and table cutlery. Impressed with Brown's ability, the senior partner offered him the control of the business (Earl Horton and Co.) and advanced some of the necessary capital. Brown invented in 1848 the conical steel spring buffer for railway wagons, and in 1860, after seeing the French ship "La Gloire" armoured with hammered plate, he determined to attempt the production of armour for the British navy by a rolling process. The experiment was successful, and led to admiralty orders for armour plate sufficient to protect about three-quarters of the navy. In 1856 Brown had started the Atlas Works in Sheffield, which soon produced, beside armour plates and railway buffers, ordnance forgings, steel rails, railway carriage axles and tires. The works covered thirty acres and employed eventually more than four thousand workmen. Besides supplying iron to the Sheffield steel trade, Brown himself successfully developed the Bessemer process. In 1864, after his business had been converted into a limited company, he retired.
He died at Bromley, Kent, on the 27th of December 1896. Among the honours conferred upon him was a knighthood in 1867, the office of mayor of Sheffield in 1862 and 1863, and that of Master Cutler in 1865 and 1866.