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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Richard Jordan Gatling

GATLING, Richard Jordan, inventor, born in Hertford County, North Carolina, 12 September, 1818. While yet a boy he assisted his father in perfecting a machine for sowing cotton-seed, and another for thinning cotton-plants. His first invention was a screw for propelling water-craft, but, on applying for letters-patent, he found that he had been anticipated by Ericsson. He subsequently invented and patented a machine for sowing rice, and, on his removal to St. Louis in 1844, he adapted it to sowing wheat in drills. He attended medical lectures at Laporte, Indiana, in 1847-'8, and also at the Ohio medical College in Cincinnati in 1848-'9, but never practiced his profession. In 1850 he invented a machine for breaking hemp, and in 1857 a steam plough, which, however, was never brought into use. In 1861 he conceived the idea of his revolving battery gun. The first of these was made at Indianapolis in 1862. Twelve were subsequently manufactured and used by General Butler on the James River, Virginia In 1865 Dr. Gatling further improved his invention, and in 1866, after satisfactory trials at Washington and at Fortress Monroe, the arm was adopted into the United States service. It is also made in Austria and in England, and is used by several European governments. As now perfected, the gun is made of various calibres and weights, for different kinds of service, and consists of a number of simple breechloading rifled barrels, grouped around and revolving about a common axis, with which they lie parallel. These component barrels are loaded and fired while revolving, the empty cartridge shells being ejected in continuous succession. Each barrel is fired only once in a revolution, so that a ten-barrel gun fires ten times in one revolution of the group of barrels. The mode of firing is simple. One man places one end of a feed-case full of cartridges into a hopper at the top of the gun, while another turns a crank by which the gun is revolved. As soon as the supply of cartridges in one feed-case is exhausted, another feed-case may be substituted without interrupting the revolution or the succession of discharges. The usual number of barrels composing the gun is ten. The invention is now protected by five patents, which cover successive improvements. The nature of these may be inferred from the statement that, whereas the original Gatling gun only fired from 250 to 300 shots per minute, those now made discharge 1.200 shots, as many as 500 having frequently been fired in two and one half seconds. Dr. Gatling now (1887) resides in Hartford, Connecticut, but has spent much of his time abroad, exhibiting his invention.

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