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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/155

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APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

JUNE, 1897.



EVOLUTION OF THE MODERN HEAVY GUN.
By W. LE CONTE STEVENS,

PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE.

DURING the last half of the nineteenth century, a period of extraordinary fertility in the industrial application of all departments of physical science, it would be remarkable if great progress were not made in the development of the materials of warfare, both offensive and defensive. It is true there have been few great wars during the half century just closing, fewer than during the corresponding previous period, when Napoleon made all Europe his chronic battle ground. But with progress in the arts of peace there comes progress in machinery of all kinds. Guns are machines which happily we are not often called upon to use in deadly earnest. The degree of perfection with which a machine does deadly work serves as a powerful argument to induce caution before bringing it into use. If the civilized world ever attains the millennium of freedom from warfare, it will not be because the philosophy of good will to men has triumphed, but because war is too terrible and costly for any nation to risk the sure and swift destruction it brings upon the vanquished. Patriotism will not be extinguished, but it will be tempered with the spirit of rational compromise. During the thirteen years of Napoleon's leadership his wars cost France one billion dollars. During the four years of civil war in America the cost to the Government of the United States was about four billion dollars, apart from treasures expended in vain by the Confederate States. The American civil war was thus at least a dozen times more expensive per year than war was during the time of Napoleon.