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Nicholas Kalakoutsky

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Nicholas Kalakoutsky (1831-1889)

1889 Obituary [1]

Major-General NICHOLAS KALAKOUTSKY was born in 1831, in the government of Smolensk. Like most of the children of noblemen of that period, young Kalakoutsky was destined for the army, and commenced his military education at an early age in the college of the Nobility Corps. In 1849 he joined the artillery, and he took part almost immediately afterwards in the Hungarian campaign. He served during the Crimean War, but in 1861 he retired from active service, in order to devote himself to the study of the construction of ordnance. He was sent as a junior inspector to the metallurgical factories in the Ural, and while so employed he devoted much time to the study of foreign languages and to the foreign technical literature relating to the construction of artillery, to which branch of the service he now began almost exclusively to apply his attention.

In 1870 General Kalakoutsky, who by this time had attracted the attention of the War Office by his extensive special technical knowledge, was transferred to St. Petersburg, and ultimately he became chief inspector of guns and war material at the Abouchoff Steelworks, near St. Petersburg. He was, in addition, frequently consulted about the construction of ordnance generally, so that it is hardly too much to say that he bore an important part in the design and manufacture of all the modern Russian artillery.

Residence in St. Petersburg gave General Kalakoutsky opportunities of devoting himself to researches respecting the internal stresses developed in cast iron and steel. For sixteen years he pursued his patient investigations, mostly at his own expense, and by the aid of instruments of great accuracy constructed according to his own designs, and only so late as 1887 published the results of his labours in the Russian language. An English translation by Mr. W. Anderson,. member of the Iron and Steel Institute, appeared almost immediately in a series of articles in the Engineer, and a little later a French translation was published in the Revue d' Artillerie. The English translation has been reprinted, and will be found in book form in the library of this Institute. The conclusions Kalakoutsky arrived at, upon the basis of the measurements made, are that the internal stresses in gun tubes and hoops vary according to the manner in which they are manufactured, annealed, hardened, or tempered, that these stresses are often very severe, and so deleterious that spontaneous fractures arise without any additional stress being brought on by external forces. He showed how deleterious stresses might be converted into beneficial ones, and how the manufacture of new forms and patterns should be guided by exact preparatory measurements. General Kalakoutsky's work brought him into constant relations with the gun-makers of Europe and of the United States, and involved him in a voluminous correspondence.

Besides the great work of his life, the subject of this notice contributed many articles to contemporary journals on matters connected with gunnery, and in 1866 he published a critical examination into the condition of British artillery. This able paper is probably unknown iu this country. It contains, however, many valuable reflections and forecasts, and may be studied with profit, even now, by those who have to do with the supply of guns to the services.

In 1874 he carried out experiments on the pressure of powder gases in small bore guns and rifles, and obtained a premium in recognition of his services.

In 1884 General Kalakoutsky retired from the army, after thirty-five years' service of exceptional value to his country, but nevertheless he continued to render advice, both to the Ordnance Committee and to the Abouchoff Works, to the day of his death.

For some years his health had been failing. Disease of the heart was gradually undermining his strength. He sought relief in the mineral waters of Keeslovodsk, in the Caucasus, during the summer of 1888, and returned to St. Petersburg in the autumn much relieved. Too soon, however, his friends had the grief of seeing him grow weaker and weaker, and he died on the 29th of January of the present year, leaving a widow and a very large circle of friends to lament the loss which the country bad sustained. It is only those who had the privilege of his friendship who could appreciate the vast fund of exact knowledge possessed by the quiet unassuming man; it is only his intimate friends who can truly appreciate the loss which his premature death is to science in general, and to the art of gun construction in particular.

General Kalakoutsky had received several orders of distinction from his sovereign, and was an officer of the French Legion of Honour.

He joined the Iron and Steel Institute in 1886.

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