Cornhill Magazine,  1 (1860), 505–12.

The How and Why of Long Shots and Straight Shots

[John F D Donnelly]



Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [3]


Experiment, Professionalization, Popularization, Discovery, Aeronautics, Dynamics, Military Technology, Invention, Instruments, Mathematics

People mentioned:

Isaac Newton , Galileo Galilei , Joseph Whitworth

    Addressed to 'our unprofessional readers' who are 'wholly ignorant of the science of gunnery', the article gives a technical account of the movement of gun shots detailing the experiments of the subject's 'principal establisher' Benjamin Robins. Throughout, it endeavours 'not to use too scientific language' (508) or 'to be too mathematical' (511). While through 'improved machinery' men have 'advanced considerably in the Art or practice of destruction', it was Robins, in the eighteenth century, who 'smoothed the way for all our present discoveries; and [...] left the science of gunnery much as we have it now'. (505) The main part of the article touches upon the need to control the rotation of bullets by scoring grooves on a rifle barrel, the greater accuracy of elongated bullets, and the resistance of the atmosphere to the parabola of a gun shot. To test this atmospheric resistance, Robins 'invented the Ballistic Pendulum and Whirling Machine' (510). His understanding that the rotation of the earth about its axis throws projectiles to the right parallels Jean B L Foucault's 'experiment with the vibrating pendulum' (512).

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