|Died||13 March 1842 80) (aged|
In 1784, while a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, he perfected, with his own resources, an invention of what he called "spherical case" ammunition: a hollow cannonball filled with lead shot that burst in mid-air. He successfully demonstrated this in 1787 at Gibraltar. He intended the device as an anti-personnel weapon.
In 1803, the British Army adopted a similar but elongated explosive shell which immediately acquired the inventor's name. It has lent the term shrapnel to fragmentation from artillery shells and fragmentation in general ever since, long after it was replaced by high explosive rounds. Until the end of World War I, the shells were still manufactured according to his original principles.
Shrapnel served in Flanders, where he was wounded in 1793. He was promoted to major on 1 November 1803 after eight years as a captain. After his invention's success in battle at Fort New Amsterdam, Suriname, on 30 April 1804, Shrapnel was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 20 July 1804, less than nine months later.
In 1814, the British Government recognized Shrapnel's contribution by awarding him £1200 (UK£ 82,000 in 2019) a year for life. Bureaucracy however prevented him from receiving the full benefit of this award. He was appointed to the office of Colonel-Commandant, Royal Artillery, on 6 March 1827. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-general on 10 January 1837.
- According to some historians, the French engineer Bernard Forest de Bélidor actually invented the shell, commonly attributed to Shrapnel. In 1760 de Belidor reported on his secret experiments for the French military with round shells which he called globes of compression. The French inspector general of artillery, Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, worked on their further development while serving in the Austrian Army during the Seven Years' War.
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