Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling

Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling, inventer of the gatling gun

Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling (September 12, 1818 – February 26, 1903) was an American inventor best known for his invention of the Gatling gun, the first successful rapid-repeating fire arm.

The son of farmer and inventor Jordan Gatling, Gatling was born in Hertford County, North Carolina and by the age of 21 had invented the screw propeller for steamboats, only to discover it had recently and independently been patented by John Ericsson.  He worked as a court clerk, teacher, and storekeeper.  While running his own store, he invented a "wheat drill", a planting device, and manufactured these for sale.  By 1845 he was earning enough from this device to devote himself to selling and marketing it full-time.

He founded the Gatling Gun Company in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1862.  The company merged with Colt in 1897.  In the interim, he further developed the device, and while experimenting with improvements, he devised electric motor powered Gatling cannons of various sizes.  Modern versions of these were put into use on flying gun platforms in the later half of the 1900’s, as well as being used by some ground forces.  The hand-cranked Gatling gun was declared obsolete by the United States Army in 1911.

In his later years, Gatling patented improvements related to toilets, bicycles, steam-cleaning of raw wool, pneumatic power, and many other fields.  World-famous, he was elected as the first president of the American Association of Inventors and Manufacturers in 1891, serving for six years.  Although still quite wealthy at the time of his death, he had made and lost several fortunes in bad investments.

Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling died at his home in New York City on February 26, 1903.  He is interred at the famous Crown Hill National Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.

the West Point gatling gun, an original on display