When thinking about weapons of mass destruction, we need to go back a few years to the Civil War.   Many inventions happened because of the art of war.  The invention of the Gatling gun was an exception. It was created for more humanitarian reasons.

A man named Richard Jordan Gatling created the machine gun or the Gatling gun.  A peace-loving fellow, Gatling felt empathy for the wounded that lay broken and diseased with bullet-laden bodies.  But we know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Gatlin thought if he could create a gun that shot 600 rounds of bullets at once, it would reduce the need for more soldiers. Gatlin reasoned that his gun would do the work of 50 soldiers, thus saving lives, that is, lives on his side of the Army. Gatlin was a typical American believing in the axiom “bigger, better, faster, more.” Unfortunately, Gatlin’s reasoning “backfired” and many people would die because of its invention. Abraham Lincoln did not agree with Gatlin and rescinded the order for the guns and refused to use them in the Civil War.


Gatling had better luck with the British.  The British still used the cumbersome lowly canon, having to drag it with them into war. It took time to load the cannon with fodder, soldiers often getting hurt or wounded from the backlash of the weapon, and this is why the rookies always pulled Canon duty!   The Brits loved the idea of the Gatling gun and brought it with them to conquer and colonize Northern Africa.  When the Brits were up against the Ashantees, the natives saw the evil monstrosity as a sign of the end of times and the high priest retired to his tent and shot himself.

Weapons have been part of humanity from ancient times, starting with the invention of the spear. Like all inventions, with each generation, new methods have been invented to be part of the art of war.

But the idea of a weapon of mass destruction was born, in the art of war, man has used creative forces for destructive purposes, the idea of biological warfare is ancient, during the siege of the city-state of Athens by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War a devastating plague broke out which killed thousands of Athenians. The famous historian Thucydides, writing between 431 B.C. and 404 B.C. reported, “it was supposed that Sparta poisoned the wells with hemlock.”

The Hykos sent people with the plague into the tents of their enemies, and Hannibal used elephants to cross the Alps, but catapulted poisonous snakes at his enemies fleeing in ships.   A recent archeological find, circa A.D. 256 at an ancient Roman fortress, 20 Roman soldiers unearthed beneath the town’s ramparts did not die of war wounds, as previous archaeologists had assumed, but from poison gas. (Wikipedia)

The atomic bomb is the culmination of inventing implements of vast destruction using creative forces. There is no end to the use of the elements for the purpose of manufacturing weapons.  Will man’s ingenuity to build destructive devices be his own ondoing?