chapter  20
Muskets and Pendulums: Benjamin Robins, Leonhard Euler, and the Ballistics Revolution
ByBrett D. Steele
Pages 35

In spite of his numerous assumptions, Benjamin Robins succeeded in demonstrating his theory's utility for muskets. The use of smoothbore muskets as the standard infantry weapon until the second half of the 19th century was not due to an ignorance of their bullets' random trajectories but rather to the inability to manufacture desirable rifles and to the social lag that existed in military bureaucracies. In order to measure projectile air resistance at velocities too low for the ballistics pendulum, Robins invented the whirling arm. Robins's and Leonhard Euler's work therefore represents a scientific revolution. The ballistics revolution generated new theories that offered a rational understanding of gunnery, the technology of controlling gunfire. The ballistics revolution also highlights important characteristics regarding the historical role of engineering research. The ballistics revolution therefore contradicts the popular idea that the experimental and mathematical sciences remained essentially separate until the 19th century.