Topics of the Times (7 march 1900)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Topics of the Times is an article published in The New-York Times on 7 march 1900.
Topics of the Times
Like a good many other Britishers, Dr. CONAN DOYLE has had his attention called in a very emphatic manner of late to the fact that, while rifle fire is extremely effective when directed by an in trenched force against soldiers standing or advancing on open ground, it is practically useless when turned against a protected foe, completely Invisible most of the time and only partially visible at the moment of pulling the trigger. But Dr. DOYLE, unlike the majority of those who have pondered on this phenomenon, was not content to mourn it as an irremediable consequence of the nature of things, only to be ignored by desperate valor or circumvented by strategical skill. Instead he brought to bear upon this problem the ingenuity he had so often placed at the service of Sherlock Holmes. "There is," he reflected, "one side upon which the man in a trench or behind a rock is vulnerable, and that side is from above." Instantly it dawned — the great idea, the clue. A flat trajectory is an excellent thing for some purposes, but not when the straight line from the shooter to the to-be-shot passes through a body impenetrable by bullets. In such cases the bowmen of old sent their arrows high in air and trusted gravity to do the rest. Then Dr. DOYLE figured out that 100,000 bullets, falling on a kopje 1,000 by 100 yards in extent, would free it of defenders. Next he devised a simple attachment for the ordinary rifle to indicate the angle at which the weapon should be held to drop a bullet at a given range, and lastly he wrote to the British War Office, telling them all about his invention and offering to let them have it. The only reply he received was a curtly courteous declination to put him to any further trouble in the matter! In a letter to The London Times, Dr. DOYLE makes it clear that he thinks the War Office an inappreciative and unprogressive institution, much in need of reform. In this opinion several of the other London papers seem to agree with him, and one of them not only says that the episode proves the "pachydermatous" character of the War Office officials, but declares that were the doctor not too patriotic to sell his invention to foreigners he could be sure of a fortune from either Germany or Prance.