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Advanced Technology for Liberty

Posted on July 6th, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications

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By Armelion [CC0 Public Domain], via pixabay

What advanced technology of the time helped the 13 Colonies secure liberty? Give this one a spin. In honor of Independence Day in the United States and in keeping with the theme of our blog, I thought it might be interesting to research if any “advanced technology” was historically cited as giving the American colonists an advantage during the American Revolutionary War. Today, “advanced technology” is often thought as synonymous with electronics, chemicals, or software. In the 18th century however, advancements were largely mechanical in nature.

When you consider the “new world” and the idea of Colonial America, it’s no surprise that industrious and inventive people from all of the world were drawn to this land. They encountered new, unforeseen challenges which they had to overcome largely on their own – not the least of which was feeding yourself and staying alive in vast, heavily forested frontiers. Hunting was not sport, it was a daily necessity and the British made musket – or “Brown Bess” as it was commonly known – was the most readily available gun of the time. Couple this with legislation requiring male citizens of the Colonies to own arms and ammunition for militia service and you can appreciate the importance of having and maintaining a one.

Unfortunately, the Brown Bess was heavy and used a large caliber smooth spherical ball requiring a significant amount of gunpowder which was hard to come by. It was extremely inaccurate with a range of approximately 60 yards and the projectile was subject to unpredictable curving in flight due to surface imperfections. All of these limitations made the Brown Bess unsuitable for hunting, let alone defending yourself in an untamed frontier.

German immigrants settling in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area brought with them the advanced technology of barrel rifling. Invented in 1602 in Germany, rifling cut a series of helical grooves in the barrel to impart a spinning motion to the bullet giving it gyroscopic stability. Along with this, they invented a firearm which was lighter and smaller in caliber making it accurate, easier to carry and more economical on gunpowder consumption. The Kentucky Long Rifle is born and boasts an amazing range of 200 to 400 yards.

So, how is it possible for gunsmiths in the 1700 to manufacture such a complex shape in a repeatable fashion? As you can see in the following YouTube video from the folks over at American Precision Museum, combining simple mechanisms with precise timing provides the necessary means:

Necessity was certainly the mother of invention for the early settlers in the American Colonies. The drive and determination to leave the familiar surrounding of your native country to face the unknown must have been tremendous. Bringing with them the knowledge and expertise, the best and the brightest were not only able to invent many revolutionary devices, but a way of life and spirit that I believe continues to this day. Happy birthday America.

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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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