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Henry Shrapnel
Born (1761-06-03)3 June 1761
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, England
Died 13 March 1842(1842-03-13) (aged 80)
Nationality British

Major General Henry Shrapnel (3 June 1761 – 13 March 1842) was a British Army officer and inventor, most famously, of the "shrapnel shell".

Henry Shrapnel was born at Midway Manor in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, England.

In 1784, while a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, he perfected, with his own resources, an invention of what he called "spherical case" ammunition: a hollow cannonball filled with lead shot that burst in mid-air.[1] He intended the device as an anti-personnel weapon. In 1803, the British Army adopted a similar but elongated explosive shell which immediately acquired the inventor's name: the shrapnel shell.[2] It has lent the term "shrapnel" to fragmentation from artillery shells and fragmentation in general ever since, long after it was replaced by high explosive rounds.

Shrapnel served in Flanders, where he was wounded in 1793. He was promoted to major on 1 November 1803 after eight years as a captain. After his invention's success in battle at Fort New Amsterdam on 30 April 1804,[3] Shrapnel was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 20 July 1804, less than nine months later.

In 1814, the British Government recognized Shrapnel's contribution by awarding him £1200 (UK£ 75,000 in 2021)[4] a year for life. He was appointed to the office of Colonel-Commandant, Royal Artillery, on 6 March 1827. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-general on 10 January 1837.

He lived at Peartree House, near Peartree Green, Southampton from about 1835 until his death.[5][6] Until the end of World War I, the shells were still manufactured according to his original principles.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The French engineer Bernard Forest de Bélidor actually invented the shell, commonly attributed to the British Major Henry Shrapnel. Vesilind, P. Aarne (2006). "Peace Engineering". pp. 283–287. Digital object identifier:10.1061/(ASCE)1052-3928(2006)132:4(283).  In 1760 Bernard Forest de Belidor reported on his secret experiments for the French military with such round shells which he called globes of compression. The French inspector general of artillery, Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, worked on their further development while serving in the Austrian Army during the Seven Years' War. McCloy, Shelby Thomas (1952). French inventions of the eighteenth century. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press. OCLC 560969. 
  2. Rich, Norman N. (1967). "Shrapnel Wounds". p. 245. Digital object identifier:10.1001/jama.1967.03130160119038. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=335775. 
  3. Hogg, Oliver Frederick Gillilan (1970). Artillery: its origin, heyday and decline. London: C. Hurst & Company. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-900966-43-9. 
  4. Long, Tony (March 2008). "March 13, 1842: Henry Shrapnel Dies, But His Name Lives On". Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080603202930/http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/03/dayintech_0313. 
  5. Vale, Jessica (1980). "Peartree House". Lost Houses of Southampton. www.bitterne.net. http://www.bitterne.net/gentry/peartree.html. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  6. "Peartree House". Port Cities: Southampton. www.plimsoll.org. Picture from 1930. http://www.plimsoll.org/resources/SCCLibraries/2964.asp. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 

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