Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers One hundred years ago

Gatling and Guillotin

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:274

Richard Jordan Gatling, the inventor of the gun which bears his name, who died recently in his 85th year, was originally a member of the medical profession. He studied medicine at Ohio Medical College, and graduated in due course but never practised. He was destined to win fame as the inventor of means for the wholesale destruction of human life rather than for its preservation. He is said to have been inspired by the desire to make “artillery so deadly that deaths from disease would be averted owing to the universal horror for war.” The reasoning is a little obscure, for even if the reign of peace, proclaimed somewhat prematurely by the Hague Conference, were to become an accomplished fact, there seems to be nothing to warrant the hope that people would cease to die of disease. But we are willing to believe that Dr. Gatling's intentions were better than his logic, and that his murderous weapon was designed for the protection of human life. The equally famous invention of Dr. Guillotin was in like manner the offspring of humanitarian sentiment. (BMJ 1903;i:750)

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