Louis Gathmann (August 11, 1843–1917), engineer and an inventor, started his career designing equipment for mills and farms; he is notable for holding numerous patents. By the 1880s, Gathmann's patents were in such demand that he had to form a company to help track and produce his designs. This company, known as the Garden City Mill Furnishing Company, made milling machines which were sold all over the globe.
Gathmann was born in Hanover, in what is now Germany. He moved to the United States in 1864, and eventually moved to Chicago where he lived until the end of the 19th century, when he moved to Washington D.C.
By the 1880s, Gathmann had made enough money to have his family moved to the United States from Prussia. He also had four mansions built, two in Chicago, one in Washington D.C., and one in Baltimore, Maryland.
Gathmann was very interested in astronomy and had three observatories built in the Chicago area during the 1880s, one of which was a domed observatory tower which he had installed on the side of his mansion on Lincoln Avenue. In the 1890s, Louis had invented a "Sectional Telescope Lens."
Louis was also involved in 19th century weather modification projects, and was able to illustrate the ability to modify clouds at will in the mid-1890s, long before General Electric found that clouds could be modified using dry ice. Louis Gathmann received a patent (US Patent 462,795) for his weather modification research and wrote a book, Rain Produced At Will on the subject which also had chapters written by respected scientific authorities of the era, such as Simon Newcomb.
From the 1890s on, Louis Gathmann focused on ordinance development. The largest gun designed by Gathmann was the 18-inch Gathmann Gun, which was a coastal defense gun manufactured by Bethlehem Steel under Emil Gathmann (head of Bethlehem Steel's Ordnance Section, and one of Gathmann's sons). The gun was tested at Sandy Hook, but was abandoned because of its cost and an American military bias against high explosive ordnance in favor of armor piercing rounds.
Louis was also involved with early aircraft development and had attempted to develop a helicopter, but his noted successes relate to high explosive ordnance (especially fuses).
Media claims that Gathmann invented the German 42-cm Big Bertha howitzer, as well as the ordnance the Japanese employed at the Battle of Tsushima have no foundation in fact. Krupp's Director of design, Professor Fritz Rausenberger, designed the Big Bertha, while the Japanese naval guns were built by the British (as were their battleships).
During World War I, Louis conceived a multi-hull naval armor design which incorporated buffer zones, shocks and deflectors. The concept was not used in his lifetime, but is essentially the same armor as was used by the Germans in World War II on the German battleship Bismarck.
When Gathmann died in June 1917, he held more patents than any other person alive at that time, and his death was mentioned in papers all over the globe, from the Chicago Tribune, to the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Gathmann was mentioned in the "Who's Who" and "Who Was Who" books up through the 1960s.
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