Wednesday 22 March 2017

All Aboard for the Moon on Simpson's Electric Gun

The following article appeared in the July 12, 1908 edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper. Not unlike modern science journalism, a relatively modest discovery - W.S. Simpson's electric gun, capable of launching a projectile 300 miles - is inflated to world-shattering proportions.
"Men could abide on the moon for a time," says Professor Dodge. "In thick walled, airtight houses, and could walk out of doors in airtight divers’ suits. Scientists would find in the wastes a fresh field for exploration. Astronomers could plant their telescopes there, free from their most serious hindrance, the earth’s atmosphere. Tourists of the wealthy and adventurous class would not fail to visit the satellite, and it is probable there are veins of precious metals, beds of diamonds and an abundance of sulphur in a world of so highly volcanic a character."
The scanned image may be clicked on for a closer look.

The potential real-life applications of the electric gun were a source of consternation, however. Journalist and pacifist William T. Stead, who died aboard the Titanic, stated that "Mr. Simpson's invention, which will shortly be tried by military and naval experts here, is one of the most efficient arguments in the cause of peace if brought forward." Unfortunately he fell into the common fallacy that it would only take a weapon of sufficient destructive power to horrify humanity into peace. If only that were true.

The Telegraph issued a more concrete column about the invention.

It is heartwarming, if naive, that a redeeming use for the discovery in the form of celestial exploration was found so quickly.  

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