From the Earth to the Moon HTML version
Chapter 7. The Hymn Of The Cannon-Ball
The Observatory of Cambridge in its memorable letter had treated the question from a
purely astronomical point of view. The mechanical part still remained.
President Barbicane had, without loss of time, nominated a working committee of the
Gun Club. The duty of this committee was to resolve the three grand questions of the
cannon, the projectile, and the powder. It was composed of four members of great
technical knowledge, Barbicane (with a casting vote in case of equality), General
Morgan, Major Elphinstone, and J. T. Maston, to whom were confided the functions of
secretary. On the 8th of October the committee met at the house of President Barbicane, 3
Republican Street. The meeting was opened by the president himself.
"Gentlemen," said he, "we have to resolve one of the most important problems in the
whole of the noble science of gunnery. It might appear, perhaps, the most logical course
to devote our first meeting to the discussion of the engine to be employed. Nevertheless,
after mature consideration, it has appeared to me that the question of the projectile must
take precedence of that of the cannon, and that the dimensions of the latter must
necessarily depend on those of the former."
"Suffer me to say a word," here broke in J. T. Maston. Permission having been granted,
"Gentlemen," said he with an inspired accent, "our president is right in placing the
question of the projectile above all others. The ball we are about to discharge at the moon
is our ambassador to her, and I wish to consider it from a moral point of view. The
cannon-ball, gentlemen, to my mind, is the most magnificent manifestation of human
power. If Providence has created the stars and the planets, man has called the cannon-ball
into existence. Let Providence claim the swiftness of electricity and of light, of the stars,
the comets, and the planets, of wind and sound-- we claim to have invented the swiftness
of the cannon-ball, a hundred times superior to that of the swiftest horses or railway train.
How glorious will be the moment when, infinitely exceeding all hitherto attained
velocities, we shall launch our new projectile with the rapidity of seven miles a second!
Shall it not, gentlemen-- shall it not be received up there with the honors due to a
Overcome with emotion the orator sat down and applied himself to a huge plate of
sandwiches before him.
"And now," said Barbicane, "let us quit the domain of poetry and come direct to the
"By all means," replied the members, each with his mouth full of sandwich.
"The problem before us," continued the president, "is how to communicate to a projectile
a velocity of 12,000 yards per second. Let us at present examine the velocities hitherto
attained. General Morgan will be able to enlighten us on this point."