Monday, June 20, 2011
Countless millions of people have been killed by the machine-gun since its design by the American inventor, Hiram Maxin, in 1884. Improbable as it may seem, his idea for the weapon was literally sparked by an accident during his childhood. Late in life, Maxim reminisced about the incident: "When I was quite a small boy, my mother wanted to shoot an owl she saw in a tree in the garden. So she got a gun from the house, an old flint-lock musket and loaded it, but it would not go off. I was siezed with the idea of applying a hot coal to the powder while my mother aimed the gun. So I rushed into the house, returning triumphantly with a piece of hot cinder in a pair of tongs. This I held to the gun, and as I did so, the owl flew off and the red-hot cinder fell and set fire to my mother's dress, burning her badly. This so upset me that I vowed I would invent an automatic gun which would fire itself."