Synopses & Reviews
A Pulitzer Prize winner explores the role of the first machine gun in transforming America into a superpower
Although it was little used during the American Civil Warathe time in which it was inventedathe Gatling gun soon changed the nature of warfare and the course of world history. Discharging two hundred shots per minute with alarming accuracy, the worldas first machine gun became vitally important to protecting and expanding Americaas overseas interests. Its inventor, Richard Gatling, was famous in his own time for creating and improving many industrial designs, from bicycles and steamship propellers to flush toilets. A man of great business and scientific acumen, Gatling actually proposed his gun as a way of saving lives, thinking it would decrease the size of armies and, therefore, make it easier to supply soldiers and reduce malnutrition deaths. The scientists who unleashed Americaas atomic arsenal less than a century later would see it much the same way.
In Mr. Gatlingas Terrible Marvel, Julia Keller offers a riveting account of the Gatling gunas invention, its misunderstood creator, and its tremendous impact on American and world events. She also shows how the gun, in its combination of ingenuity, idealism, and destructive power, perfectly exemplified the paradox of Americaas rise as a world superpower.
" A lively and well-informed biographical study . . . Keller's great gift, along with sprightly prose . . . is contextualization."
Pulitzer Prize-winner Keller offers a riveting account of the Gatling gun's invention, its misunderstood creator, and its tremendous impact on American and world events. 8-page b&w photo insert.
A provocative look at the life and times of the man who created the original weapon of mass destruction
Drawing on her investigative and literary talents, Julia Keller offers a riveting account of the invention of the world's first working machine gun. Through her portrait of its misunderstood creator, Richard Jordan Gatling-who naively hoped that the overwhelming effectiveness of a multiple-firing weapon would save lives by decreasing the size of armies and reducing the number of soldiers needed to fight-Keller draws profound parallels to the scientists who would unleash America's atomic arsenal half a century later. The Gatling gun, in its combination of ingenuity, idealism, and destructive power, perfectly exemplifies the paradox of America's rise in the nineteenth century to a world superpower.
About the Author
Julia Keller is cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune. She is a guest essayist on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and has been a contributor on CNN and NBC Nightly News.