Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PARROTT, Robert Parker, inventor, born in Lee, New Hampshire, 5 October, 1804; died in Cold Spring, New York, 24 December, 1877. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1824, assigned to the artillery, and till 1829 was on duty at West Point as assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy in 1824-'6, and of mathematics till 1828, and then as principal assistant in the former subjects. He was promoted 1st lieutenant, 27 August, 1831, and served in garrison till 1834, then on ordnance duty till 1838, and on the staff during operations in the Creek nation in 1836. On 13 January, 1836, he was made captain of ordnance, and assigned to duty in the ordnance bureau at Washington, but on 31 October of that year he resigned his commission and became superintendent of the West Point iron and cannon foundry at Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York While in charge of this institution he devised and perfected, by long and costly experiments, the system of rifled cannon and projectiles that is known by his name. These were used extensively by the United States government during the civil war, and were first put to the test of actual warfare at Bull Run. Parrott's guns are of cast-iron, and in the larger calibres are hollow-cast on the plan invented by Gem Thomas J. Rodman, and cooled from the inside, as in his method, by a stream of cold water running through the bore. They are strengthened by shrinking a hoop or barrel of wrought-iron over that part of the re-enforce that surrounds the charge. Some Parrott guns have shown wonderful endurance. During Gilmore's operations against Charleston a thirty-pounder on Cumming's point was fired 4,606 times before bursting. Others have burst, owing probably to the wedging of the projectile in the bore. During the war Captain Parrott refused to enrich himself by charging the government an extravagant price for his guns, and at its close he voluntarily cancelled a large contract that had recently been awarded him. From 1844 till 1847 he served as first judge of the Putnam county court of common pleas. His connection with the West Point foundry lasted till 1867, after which he was president or director of various industrial enterprises.
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