The Paris Gun of 1918
A technological marvel, it was also a super-weapon of terror. The Kaiser Cannon of 1918 terrorized Paris during Germany's last desperate campaign to win World War I. The Paris Gun was a marvel of technology. It required astronomers, geographers, physicists, chemists, and other scientific experts to launch each 210-pound shot at Paris from behind German lines--a range of 80 miles (130 km). More
The Paris Gun of 1918 was both a supreme weapon of terror, and a remarkable artillery piece. It still ranks first for both the altitude and the range of its trajectories. It was designed to inspire fear, demoralize the Allies in the French capital, and contribute to Germany's victory in the Great War.
As a military weapon, it turned no tides. As a weapon of mass terror, it was a footnote in the history of infamous terror campaigns.
Each shell traveled near the edge of outer space (an estimated 40 kilometers up, or 25 miles, or 131,000 ft). Along the top of the trajectory, the atmosphere was so thin that the projectile was nearly in free-fall, both from lack of resistance, and low-gravity effects. The mind-boggling mathematical and physical calculations made by Germany's top astronomers, mathematicians, and artillerists took into account the extra lift resulting in near-space. They had to make individual calculations, before each shot, to account for the earth's rotation, the Coriolis Effect, and other phenomena with which no other artillery piece in history has had to deal.
But the road to the Paris Gun is a long one, starting with the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s) and Napoleon's standardization of the cannon ball (early 1800s). We trace the deadly but marvelous technology of the American Civil War that influenced Jules Verne to entrance the world with his stories (mid to late 1800s).
The lessons of the Civil war would influence Bismarck's generals in defeating France in 1870, and set the groundwork for World War I (914-1918). Along the way, we meet many fascinating men and women, emperors and duchesses, many with tragic love affairs and other human entanglements that shade the path of history.