Inventor of the rotary machine gun

Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling was born in Money’s Neck, North Carolina on September 12, 1818. The son of a failed inventor-cum-farmer, Richard applied for his first patent at age 21 with a screw propellor for steamboats. The propellor however, had already been patented months earlier. Unperturbed by his failure, he went on to invent a seed drill and various other agricultural tools. Gatling took an active interest in medicine and by 1850 he had graduated from Ohio Medical College. Instead of practicing, he moved to Indianapolis in 1854 and began inventing again to no avail. He invented a machine for breaking hemp in 1854 and a steam plow in 1857.

Capitalising on the onset of the Civil War, Gatling turned his hand to designing weaponry, and in 1862 demonstrated the first working model of a 6-barrel gun, each barrel of which could be fired and reloaded in rapid succession by turning a crank. He secured the patent for the "Gatling Gun" on November 4, 1862.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler purchased 12 of Gatling's guns in 1863 and first employed them in the battle of Petersburg. With successful combat testing and a positive cash flow, Gatling established The Gatling Gun Company in Indianapolis where it remained until it was bought by Colt in 1874. Although the weapon did not see much use in the Civil War, it featured heavily in the Spanish American War, and various colonial wars of the era.

Under the accusation that he had released a terrible device on humanity, Gatling maintained until his death in 1903 that he "always intended to have the device save the life of the user, and because of its terrible efficiency, make war itself obsolete".

The army declared his gun obsolete in 1911 after 45 years of service, but its progeny lives on as the minigun.

  • "Manufacturers of fine Gatling guns, suitable for display, reenactments, or actual use."! -

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