Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel

Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel

The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It

By Julia Keller

Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670018949, 304pp.

Publication Date: May 29, 2008


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 War--the time in which it was invented--the Gatling gun soon changed the nature of warfare and the course of world history. Discharging two hundred shots per minute with alarming accuracy, the world's first machine gun became vitally important to protecting and expanding America's 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 America's atomic arsenal less than a century later would see it much the same way.

In Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel, Julia Keller offers a riveting account of the Gatling gun's 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 America's rise as a world superpower.