Tartaglia’s work on ballistics was stimulated in 1531, when an artilleryman asked him at what angle of elevation does a cannon shoot farthest? He correctly answered 45 degrees and then went on to investigate the flight of a cannonball more thoroughly. He incorrectly concluded that the path consisted of three parts: an initial straight line when the ball was propelled from the gun by the explosion of the gunpowder, a curved segment as it began to slow and lastly another straight line of flight as it fell to the ground. In an early instance of scientific morality, Tartaglia initially refused to publish his results because he thought it unreasonable to teach Christians how to better kill their brothers. In 1537, as Venice was being threatened by the Turks, Tartaglia had a change of heart and published this work as his contribution to the fight against the infidels.
The work is divided into two parts, the first dealing with both practical and theoretical ballistics and the second with military survey problems. Tartaglia describes an instrument, the gunner’s quadrant, used to accurately set the elevation of the guns. He then adds sights and better scales to produce a military surveying instrument. The gunner’s quadrant was equipped with a plumb bob and scale marked in points of elevation (usually twelve). A gun elevated at 45 degrees was said to be at point 6 range. When horizontal, the plum bob would cut the zero point on the scale—however, since the points were marked in Roman numerals, which have no zero, the position was simply left blank. Hence we have the term point blank range. Even after the general acceptance of the Hindu-Arabic numerals, the tradition of leaving the zero point blank on cannon elevation scales remained and this feature can often be seen on the sides of cannons dating from as late as the nineteenth century" (Tomash & Williams).
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