Gatling, Richard Jordan

Gatling, Richard Jordan,

1818–1903, American inventor, b. Winton, N.C. He invented agricultural implements, which he manufactured in St. Louis, and then studied medicine in Indiana and Ohio, but he is remembered as the creator of a rapid-firing gun that was the precursor of the modern machine gun. He offered the Gatling gun to the Union army in the Civil War and successfully demonstrated it in Dec., 1862, but it was not accepted by the Ordnance Dept. until 1866, after the war had ended. It was long used by the U.S. army until replaced by more modern types.
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Gatling, Richard Jordan

(1818–1903) inventor; born in Money's Neck, N.C. The son of a planter, he taught school and ran a country store, but he was observant of the agricultural practices all around him and spent his time inventing such devices as a rice-sewing machine (patented 1839) and a steam plow (1857). By 1862 he had received a patent for a rapid-fire multibarrel weapon; technically speaking it was not a machine-gun because it had to be powered by a hand crank in the early models (and an electric motor in the improved model). Only a few "Gatling guns" were put into use at the end of the Civil War but it was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1866. It could fire about 600 rounds per minute and was used by the army and navy up through the Spanish-American War. Gatling worked on its improved versions but then went back to working on agricultural machinery, inventing a motor-driven plow in 1900.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.