Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, September 17, 2016

An Inventor of Influence: Giovanni Cavalli

Lieutenant general Giovanni Cavalli (1808–1879) was an Italian soldier, artillerist, and inventor. He is credited with the creation of the first successful rifled breech-loader gun.

General Cavalli

He entered the Royal Academy of Turin in 1818 and graduated from it on 1828 as first of his class, with the rank of lieutenant. He worked on ways to reform and improve the work of artillerists and pontoneers, detailing proposals to change size and duties of gun crews, the procedures to drill them, among others.

Then-captain Cavalli's first design for a breech-loading gun dated from 1832, but initially it was met with indifference; only in 1843 did his proposal spark some interest, and he was sent to Sweden to oversee the construction of an experimental rifled gun to his specifications. He met there and collaborated with Baron Martin von Wahrendorff, and in 1846 the first trials with the gun met with resounding success. Made of cast iron, the piece accurately fired a 64-pound projectile 3,400 yards.  An improved 1854 model that was less prone to bursting when fired had a range of three miles.

Cavalli's Prototype

He fought in the First War of Italian Independence with the rank of major, participating in the siege of Peschiera del Garda; he also served in a similar capacity in the Second Italian War of Independence, as a colonel. Afterwards he became director of the foundry of the Turin arsenal.

Promoted to major general in 1860 and to lieutenant general in 1862, he served on the Comitato d'Artiglieria (Artillery Committee) and from April 1865 as commander of the Royal Academy of Turin. He retired in July 1879, dying in Turin shortly after. The weapon whose development he championed would become the deadliest of the First World War.

Sources:  Wikipedia and Nel centenario della nascita del generale Giovanni Cavalli

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