Title page of 'Account of the Origin and Progress of the Rocket System' , 1810.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Title page of 'A Concise Account of the Origin and Progress of the Rocket System' by Sir William Congreve (1772-1828), published in London in 1810. After rockets were fired at British troops in India in the 1790s, the British Army became interested in their use. Congreve successfully demonstrated a solid fuel rocket in 1805, and the following year his rockets were first used in action, fired from special boats against the French fleet off Boulogne. The rockets had a range of about 2.5 km, depending on the elevation of the launching frame. They were effective, despite being rather inaccurate and prone to explode prematurely. In 1813, he was commissioned to raise a rocket troop for the Royal Artillery, which saw action with the Allies against Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.