Richard Jordan Gatling, inventor of the Gatling gun, was born in the Maney’s Neck community of Hertford County in 1818, educated at the Buckhorn Academy in Como, and grew up on a virtually self-sufficient plantation. His father and older brother invented and patented agricultural machinery.
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Richard Gatling’s first invention was a screw propeller for a boat but, delayed for several months from travelling to Washington to apply for a patent, he arrived at the patent office just a few days after John Ericsson had applied for a patent on an identical invention.
He next turned to agricultural pursuits and patented a rice-seed planter, which he later converted to a wheat planter after moving to the Midwest. There he earned a medical degree and practiced as a physician for a short time.
At the onset of the Civil War, Gatling was impressed by the number of troops dying from disease. He believed that if he could invent a gun that fired more efficiently, that the armies would need fewer soldiers.
With that in mind, Gatling invented the gun that bore his name—the first Gatling gun, capable of firing 200 rounds per minute, was patented in 1862. He continued to improve upon the gun, patenting a new model in 1865.
The United States War Department adopted the Gatling gun the following year. Before selling his patent rights to the Colt Fire Arms Company, Gatling created a gun capable of firing 1,200 rounds per minute. Unfortunately the humanitarian benefits that inspired Gatling to invent such a weapon were never realized.
Frank E. Stephenson, Gatling: A Photographic Remembrance (1993)
Paul Wahl and Don Toppel, The Gatling Gun(1965)
Arthur Clayton McCarty, Annals of Medical History: Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling (1940)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, pp. 287-288--sketch by John Richard Jordan Jr.