McDermot, Murtagh

Murtagh McDermot was an Irish writer who, in his tale A Trip to the Moon (1728), gave one of the first descriptions of a space cannon. His protagonist is whisked to the Moon by a whirlwind after the manner of Lucian's hero. There he meets the friendly Selenites who help him build the means by which he can return. "We already know," says the lunar traveler, "the height of the Moon's atmosphere, and know how gunpowder will raise a ball of any weight to any height. Now I intend to place myself in the middle of ten wooden vessels, placed one within another, with the outermost strongly hooped with iron, to prevent its breaking. This I will place over 7,000 barrels of powder, which I know will raise me to the top of the [Moon's] atmosphere ... but before I blow myself up, I'll provide myself with a large pair of wings, which I will fasten to my arms ... by the help of which I will fly down to the earth." It would be another 137 years before Jules Verne's characters used an even larger explosion to blast themselves on a lunar excursion.