Henry Shrapnel

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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 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 cannon ball filled with shot which burst in mid-air. This device was for use as an anti-personnel weapon. When it was finally adopted by the British Army in 1803, it immediately acquired the inventor's name: the shrapnel shell. (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 and was promoted to major on 1 November 1803 after eight years as a captain. After his invention's success in battle on 30 April 1804, Shrapnel was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 20 July 1804, less than nine weeks later.

In recognition of Shrapnel's contribution, the British Government in 1814 awarded him £1200 (about $128,000 USD in today's money) [1] 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.

Until the end of World War I the shells were still being manufactured according to his original principles.

The Star-Spangled Banner refers to Shrapnel shells (attached to rockets produced by William Congreve):

See also


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