Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It

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Overview

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.


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Editorial Reviews

Debby Applegate
With a rat-a-tat pace and a wicked sense of humor, Julia Keller uses the story of Gatling's famous machine-gun to take us on an exuberant and entertaining tour through American capitalism in the nineteenth-century. This book is a carnival for history buffs – bursting with colorful characters, uncanny connections, and contagious enthusiasm. (Debby Applegate, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher)
Charles Bracelen Flood
Julia Keller has not only given us the fascinating story of the Gatling gun and its colorful inventor, but has also placed it into a valid and original context. She takes us into the middle of nineteenth century America as it really was: a westward-looking continent packed with dreams, energy, and ambitious practical ideas, a place where mechanical inventions created a vision of limitless power that shaped much of the nation's philosophy and destiny. This is the story of the artifact as changing history, the early machine gun as bringing about as great a transformation as the simple stirrup did in its era. If you haven't heard of Julia Keller, you'll hear of her now. (Charles Bracelen Flood, author of Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War and past president of PEN American Center.)
Publishers Weekly

Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, analyzes the nexus between invention and culture in this incisive and instructive cultural history cum biography. Her subject is the iconic Gatling gun, the "first successful machine gun," and its inventor, Richard Jordan Gatling, a 19th-century tinkerer and entrepreneur. A gifted amateur inventor, he registered his first patent-for a mechanical seed planter-in 1844 and had 43 lifetime patents. In 1862, with the Civil War raging, Gatling invented a six-barrel, rapid-firing (200 rounds per minute) gun based on his seed planter. Initially rejected by the Union army, the gun finally came into use in 1866 as a "bully and enforcer" against striking workers and in the Indian Wars; its legacy-"the mechanization of death"-didn't become fully apparent until the killing fields of WWI. A celebrity in the 19th century, Gatling was soon reviled for his "terrible marvel" and then consigned to obscurity. Keller rescues Gatling and anchors his remarkable life firmly in the landscape of 19th-century America: a time and place of "egalitarian hope and infinite possibility." (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Military histories typically cover leaders, major wars, or important battles, seldom the development and history of the weapons used to wage war. These two brief books manage to fill that gap. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Keller (Chicago Tribune) describes the immediate impact of the Gatling gun when its "breathless whirl" was first used in the Civil War. Created in 1861, it was the prototype for the modern machine gun. When the operator turned the gun's hand crank, the rotating barrels turned and fired rapidly. It used multiple barrels and needed little time to cool off. Keller's book is both a biography of Dr. Richard J. Gatling and an analysis of how his invention permanently changed the face of warfare. The gun produced carnage on a scale never seen before. It created a blueprint for future rapid-fire weapons and contributed to American military success for years to come.

If the Gatling gun was a transforming invention of the 19th century, the AK47 represents the kind of weapon that has transformed the 20th and 21st. It was created by Soviet Lt. Gen. Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov in 1947. Hodges discusses the widespread use of this portable rapid-fire weapon, explaining that the AK47 was "not even the first semi-automatic weapon on the battlefield" nor "the most sophisticated." Its simple design was its greatest advantage; with fewer parts that might break, it was a reliable, cost-effective weapon that was easy to learn how to use. Like Keller, Hodges is an established journalist; both authors have a reporter's skill in driving their stories. Students and academics may find these books useful as secondary sources, although neither has footnotes and Hodges'sadditionally lacks a bibliography. Both are easy and enjoyable reads and will be accessible to general history buffs. Recommended for public and some undergraduate libraries.
—Antonio S. Thompson

Kirkus Reviews
Passionate biography of the inventor of the first practical machine gun. Son of a prosperous farmer and inventor, Richard Gatling (1818-1903) designed a screw propeller to drive ships at age 17. Unfortunately, his application arrived at the Patent Office only months after John Ericsson's similar device revolutionized ship transport. At 26, Gatling struck it rich with a seed planter that enabled farmers to sow in uniform rows instead of scattering seeds by hand; he filed nine more agricultural patents over the next two decades. The 1790 U.S. patent law was a historic achievement, points out Chicago Tribune culture critic Keller. Making it cheap and easy for Americans to profit from an invention, it became the engine of an explosion of technical advances. In 1861, Gatling used a rotary mechanical principle similar to that of his seed planter in a patent for the first useful rapid-fire "battery gun." Despite his energetic efforts, conservative Union ordinance officials rejected it. First-time author Keller contradicts historians who claim the first Gatling was clumsy and unreliable; it worked fine from the beginning, she demonstrates. The army reversed itself in 1866, armies throughout the world quickly followed and the Gatling remained in use until the 1890s. Because this is such an interesting history, it's regrettable that Keller is so eager to improve material that doesn't require improvement. She adopts fashionable fictional devices such as writing in the present tense ("The wide world beckons. Gatling is leaving home, mounting his horse for the daunting and perilous 737-mile journey.") and revealing her hero's inner thoughts: "No, no, no. His head was too full of all the things hewanted to build."Overheated prose only slightly mars this colorful portrait of an underappreciated American inventor and his times. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky/Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
From the Publisher
"This book is a carnival...bursting with colorful characters, uncanny connections, and contagious enthusiasm." —-Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most Famous Man in America
The Barnes & Noble Review
It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine -- a gun -- which could by rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would...supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease be greatly diminished, wrote Richard Gatling in 1877, 15 years after patenting the first working machine gun. Gatling was often at pains to justify his creation, but as self-serving as his words sound today -- inventing a machine gun to save lives? -- he was likely sincere, observes Julia Keller in Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: after all, in the optimistic 19th century, the benefits of technology seemed limitless. Even so, resistance from military higher-ups delayed adoption of the gun, which Gatling, a self-taught engineer, had hoped would hasten a Union victory in the Civil War. Some simply refused to accept that machines could trump individual valor ("It does not seem like soldiers' work," complained an infantryman testing an early version). But attitudes shifted, and besides seeing action in the Spanish-American War, the mean-looking Gatlings were wheeled out to break labor strikes and clear the West of Native Americans before being rendered obsolete by deadlier descendants. Keller draws a line from the Gatling gun to the AK-47 and the atomic bomb, lending an uncomfortable prescience to Gatling's words. Bloody as it was, the 20th century, she writes near the end of this lively, fascinating book, proved that "the more deadly and effective the technology used in a war, the fewer the numbers of human beings required to fight it." --Barbara Spindel
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440633591
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/29/2008
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 658,107
  • File size: 355 KB

Meet the Author


Julia Keller is cultural critic at the ""Chicago Tribune"" and winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She is a guest essayist on ""NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"" and has been a contributor on CNN and ""NBC Nightly News,""


Patrick F. McManus has written twelve books and two plays. There are nearly two million copies of his books in print, including his bestselling ""They Shoot Canoes Don't They?""; ""The Night The Bear Ate Goombaw""; and ""A Fine and Pleasant Mystery,"" He divides his time between Spokane, Washington, and Idaho.
Read by Norman Dietz

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Ch. 1 Cold Beauty 17

Ch. 2 A World of Mornings 53

Ch. 3 Land of the Second Chance 89

Ch. 4 "Drunkards, Dandies & Loafers" 113

Ch. 5 The Spaces Between the Bullets 141

Ch. 6 "A Little Gatling Music" 173

Ch. 7 "The World's Great Storm" 207

Ch. 8 Warriors and Sages 225

Acknowledgments 245

Notes 247

Bibliography 271

Index 285

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2008

    A difficult book to read

    This is a difficult book to read. There is very little information about Dr. Gatling or the history of his gun but the author tediously repeats what little she has. The author never misses a chance to wander off on a tangent. Although these forays into the trivial may be intended to paint a rich tableau of the Gatling gun¿s effect on the world, the author is hampered by the fact that the Gatling didn¿t have that large an impact. For example, the book includes 169 pages on the Civil War but only a handful of Gatlings were sold during the war and by the author¿s admission none of them was used effectively. The author has no understanding of the role of technological development in warfare and shows a profound ignorance of nineteenth century firearms and the firearms industry. As a result she sees the (limited) effect of the Gatling gun as revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The book is full of poor scholarship, poorly considered opinions and a distinct dislike for Dr. Gatling and his gun.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

    Historical gem, beautifully written: "Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel"

    History can be dry and boring -- OR it can be lively and inspiring. This book is riveting. In rich detail, it shows dramatically how a single life can influence an entire era -- and vice versa.<BR/><BR/>Even if you don't like guns, you'll enjoy reading about a man's quest to end war by making it deadlier than it has ever been before. It includes fascinating details about the nineteenth century. Did you know that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a patent? Or that Lincoln loved shooting guns? This book abounds with fascinating tidbits and large epic themes. You'll learn a lot -- and have even greater faith in and love for America.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2008

    The 19th century comes alive

    There are already many books about how the Gatling gun works. This one, though, explores the motivations of the man who invented it, and the times in which he lived. A lively, fun, fascinating book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2008

    Not a Gun Book

    It is a Social Moral Essay. It has nothing in it about the Gun it introduces no new data there is no reassessment technical data no analysis of the design.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 16, 2008

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    Posted December 1, 2008

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews

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