Maxim with machine gun, c 1880s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) began his career as a coach builder at an engineering works in Fitchburg, Masachusetts. From 1867 he took out patents for several inventions, including gas equipment and electric lamps. His interests then turned to automatic firearms and he moved to London, where he developed the Maxim machine-gun in 1883. In 1885 he demonstrated the world's first automatic portable machine-gun to the British Army. Many other European armies had purchased the gun by the 1890s. He also invented a pneumatic gun, a silencer, a smokeles gunpowder, a mousetrap, carbon filaments for light bulbs and a flying machine.