A Brief History of Pressure Vessels

Developments in pressure vessels during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were accompanied by all-too-frequent catastrophic pressure vessel explosions. Disastrous accidents such as the SS Sultana (1865) and the Grover Shoe Factory explosion (1904) led to the development of basic standards for manufacturing and operation of pressure vessels. Further improvements in metallurgy, welding technology and non-destructive testing helped, but a real understanding of the science and mechanics of pressure vessel failure did not finally arrive until the latter part of the twentieth century. Even in the twenty-first century, the catastrophic failure of a boiler pressure vessel in the SS Norway in Miami harbor in 2003, which killed eight crew, was a reminder that pressure vessels remain hazardous unless carefully designed, operated and inspected.

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