Richard_Jordan_Gatling

Richard Jordan Gatling

[gat-ling]

Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling (September 12, 1818February 26, 1903) was an American inventor best known for his invention of the Gatling gun, the first successful machine gun.

The son of farmer and inventor Jordan Gatling, Gatling was born in Hertford County, North Carolina and by the age of 21 had invented the screw propeller for steamboats, only to discover it had recently and independently been patented by John Ericsson. He worked as a fisherman, court clerk, teacher, and storekeeper. While running his own store, he invented a "wheat drill", a planting device, and manufactured these for sale. By 1845 he was earning enough from this device to devote himself to selling and marketing it full-time. He founded the Gatling Gun Company in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1862. The company merged with Colt in 1897. The hand-cranked Gatling gun was declared obsolete by the United States Army in 1911.

Gatling graduated from Ohio Medical College in 1850 but was more interested in continuing his career as an inventor than in practicing medicine. He invented the Gatling gun after he noticed the majority of dead returning from the American Civil War died of illness, rather than gunshots. In 1877, he wrote: "It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine - a gun - which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished."

In his later years, Gatling patented inventions to improve toilets, bicycles, steam-cleaning of raw wool, pneumatic power, and many other fields. World-famous, he was elected as the first president of the American Association of Inventors and Manufacturers in 1891, serving for six years. Although still quite wealthy at the time of his death, he had made and lost several fortunes in bad investments.

In his last years, Gatling moved to St. Louis, Missouri to form a new company for manufacturing his "steam plows," or tractors (as we would call them today). While in New York City to visit his daughter and to talk with his patent agency, Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling died at his daughter's home on February 26, 1903. He is interred at the famous Crown Hill National Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Patents by Richard Jordan Gatling

(This list may be incomplete.)

While living in his birthplace of Murfreesboro, North Carolina:

  • -- Seed-Planter, May 10, 1844
  • -- Hemp and Flax Brake, April 17, 1847
  • -- Shovel-Plow, May 29 1847
  • -- Grain-Drill, August 10, 1848

After moving to Indianapolis, Indiana:

  • -- Steam-Plow, January 27, 1857
  • -- Steam-Plow, May 29, 1860
  • -- Rotary-Cultivator (Improvement in Cotton-Cultivators), July 3, 1860
  • -- Making Laths, July 10, 1860
  • -- Hemp Brake, September 4, 1860
  • -- Improvement in Machine-Gearing, September 18, 1860
  • -- Steam-Plow, June 18, 1861
  • -- Construction of Ships (Improved Steam Marine Ram), September 9, 1862 (for ramming and sinking other ships)
  • -- Machine Gun, November 4, 1862 (first Gatling Gun patent)
  • -- Machine Gun, May 9, 1865
  • -- Priming Metallic Cartridges, June 16, 1868
  • -- Girder, November 16, 1869
  • -- Improvement in Metallic Cartridges, May 3, 1870
  • -- Revolving Battery Gun, February 28, 1871

After moving to Hartford, Connecticut:

  • -- Improvement in Revolving Battery Guns, April 9, 1872
  • -- Traversing Mechanisms for Machine-Guns, Dec 16, 1873
  • -- Culinary Apparatus, December 9, 1879
  • -- Breech Loading Ordnance, February 10, 1885
  • -- Apparatus for Casting Ordnance, April 10, 1888
  • -- Combined Torpedo and Gun Boat, March 12, 1889
  • -- Mold Core, March 11, 1890
  • -- Torpedo and Gun Boat, March 25, 1890
  • -- Pneumatic Gun and Torpedo Boat, May 13, 1890
  • -- Pneumatic Gun and Operating Mechanism, May 13, 1890
  • -- Pneumatic Gun Valve, Aug 19 1890
  • -- Apparatus for Cleansing Wool ..., March 1, 1892
  • -- Machine for Forging and Compacting Ingots, May 9, 1893
  • -- Machine Gun, May 23, 1893
  • -- Feed for Machine Guns, June 13 1893
  • -- Machine Gun, July 25, 1893
  • -- Feed for Magazine Guns, August 8, 1893
  • -- Machine Gun, September 12, 1893
  • -- Cartridge, February 6, 1894
  • -- Bicycle, May 8, 1894
  • -- Torch, November 5, 1895
  • -- Combined Cotton Thinner and Cultivator, April 21, 1896

After moving to New York, New York:

  • -- Cotton Thinner, May 3, 1898
  • -- Rein Controlling Means, October 10, 1899
  • -- Machine for Thinning Out and Cultivating Cotton Plants, April 10, 1900
  • -- Cultivator, June 12, 1900
  • -- Motor-Driven Plow, July 24, 1900
  • -- Motor Driven Vehicle, October 23, 1900
  • -- Flushing Apparatus for Water Closets, February 26, 1901

After moving to St. Louis, Missouri:

  • -- Motor-Plow, April 1, 1901

References

Further reading

Julia Keller. 2008. Mr Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It. Viking. ISBN-13: 978-0670018949

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