Joseph Aspdin (1788 – 20 March 1855) was a British mason, bricklayer and inventor who patented a process for making Portland cement on 21 October 1824.
The eldest son of a Leeds bricklayer, he began using artificial cements made by burning ground limestone and clay together. He named it 'Portland' as he thought its colour resembled Portland stone. This first true artificial cement was the first real improvement on cement since John Smeaton had made the first modern concrete by mixing powdered brick and adding pebbles as aggregate back in 1756.
However, the cement Aspdin produced was not a true cement, but an artificial version of the hydraulic lime patented by James Parker, who called his product "Roman Cement." Cement had been discovered in ancient times but it had been lost since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Aspdin established his first cement works at Kirkgate in Wakefield (1825-1838), then built a new works on the same site in 1843. The following year, he retired and the business was taken over by his first son, James.
James's younger brother William was also involved in cement manufacture, setting up his own business in Rotherhithe, London in 1841. William Aspdin then established a major cement works at Northfleet and Swanscombe in north Kent – his business later merged with several others to become the Blue Circle corporation. William Aspdin falsely claimed that his father's cement was employed by Sir Marc Brunel in his Thames Tunnel – this was probably the first major civil engineering project to use such cement. Brunel's diaries show that the cement used was "Roman Cement" made by Francis and Whyte. In 1853 William Aspdin fled his creditors and went to Germany where he was involved with several cement works of which the last one developed as the foundation for the Alsen Group which was a large exporter to USA and also Australia prior to 1900.
Aspdin is reported to have been arrested at one point for "repeated pilfering of public dust from the road," for use in his work on cement.