They were two men who had never met yet, like identical twins, began to do exactly the same things at exactly the same time.
For almost 100 years, men had been trying to produce the white metal aluminium. The best they could do involved a process that made such small amounts it cost as much as silver. But the world wanted and needed aluminium in large amounts.
Then, on February 23, 1886, a young American named Charles Martin Hall used electric current to produce aluminium. The method was cheap and, in a factory, could produce such large amounts of the metal that it could then be sold for low prices.
At the very same moment, thousands of miles away in Gentilly, France, a young Frenchman, Paul Heroult, did exactly the same thing. Even more strange was the fact that both the young men were only 22 years old. But perhaps strangest of all is that “the twins who weren’t” both died in the same year, 1914, at the age of 70.
Two men exactly the same age had invented exactly the same process for making the same metal and later died in exactly the same year.
The Hall-Heroult process is used around the world today. Charles Martin Hall opened the first large-scale aluminium production plant in Pittsburgh in 1888, which eventually became the Alcoa Corporation.