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Men, Machines, and Modern Times$
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Elting E. Morison

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262529310

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262529310.001.0001

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Gunfire at Sea: A Case Study of Innovation

Gunfire at Sea: A Case Study of Innovation

(p.23) 2 Gunfire at Sea: A Case Study of Innovation
Men, Machines, and Modern Times

Elting E. Morison

The MIT Press

This chapter presents a case study of innovation: the introduction of continuous-aim firing in the U.S. Navy. It first provides a background on the technical aspects of gunfire at sea prior to the introduction of continuous-aim firing, first devised by an English officer, Admiral Sir Percy Scott, in 1898. It then considers the benefits brought by Scott's invention, in particular in terms of improving gunnery accuracy in the U.S. Navy. It also discusses Washington's responses to William S. Sims's recommendations for adopting continuous-aim firing in the U.S. Navy, citing the reasons for what must be considered the weird response to the proposed technological change. It shows that personal identification with a concept, a convention, or an attitude appears to be a powerful explanation for resistance to change. The chapter suggests an “adaptive society” in which humans adapt to their own technological changes.

Keywords:   innovation, continuous-aim firing, U.S. Navy, Percy Scott, gunnery, William S. Sims, technological change, personal identification, resistance to change, adaptive society

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