Forsyth, Alexander John

Forsyth, Alexander John
SUBJECT AREA: Weapons and armour
b. 28 December 1769 Belhevie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
d. 11 June 1843 Belhevie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Scottish cleric and ammunition designer.
The son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, Forsyth also took Holy Orders and took over his father's parish on his death. During his spare time he experimented with explosives and in 1805 he succeeded in developing mercury fulminate as a percussion cap for use in small-arms ammunition, thus paving the way for the eventual design of the self-contained metallic cartridge and contact fuse. This he did by rolling the compound into small pellets, which he placed in a nipple at the breech end of the barrel, where they could be detonated by the falling hammer of the gun. In spring 1806 he went to London, and so impressed was the Master-General of the Ordnance by Forsyth's concept that he gave him facilities in the Tower of London in order to allow him to perfect it. Unfortunately, the Master-General of the Ordnance was replaced shortly afterwards and his successor abruptly stopped the project. Forsyth returned to Scotland and his parish, and it was only after much persuasion by his friends that he eventually petitioned Parliament for recognition of his invention. He was ultimately awarded a small state pension, but died before he received any of it.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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