Although it forever changed the tactics of naval warfare, the torpedo is one of the world's most under-researched weapons and its inventors the most neglected. To correct this oversight, Edwyn Gray follows up on his popular study of Robert Whitehead's torpedoes by taking a look at seventy other torpedoes and the men who invented them. He traces the history of the torpedo, placing its evolution in the context of a defining century of weapons development when torpedoes progressed from harpoon projectiles to rocket-powered weapons of destruction.
Written for layman and expert alike in the lively style Gray has come to be known for, the book reveals a wealth of fascinating details about individual torpedoes along with a panorama of naval opinions and insights into the trials and tribulations of the weapon pioneers of the nineteenth century. Gray solves a number of mysteries that have bedeviled naval historians for decades and corrects longstanding misconceptions, based on information uncovered during ten years of research. Gray examined more than one hundred U.S. and British patents taken out between 1836 and 1900 as well as reports from contemporary technical and professional journals and unpublished papers, and enlivens the text with accounts of torpedoes in action together with colorful anecdotes about the inventors. Such an important contribution to the history of this branch of naval ordnance helps make sense of a raggle-taggle collection of bizarre weapons that caused so much consternation among naval tacticians at the end of the nineteenth century.