Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval

Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval

Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval
Born 15 September 1715
Amiens, France
Died 9 May 1789(1789-05-09) (aged 73)
Allegiance France
Service/branch French Army
Rank Lieutenant General

Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval (15 September 1715 – 9 May 1789) was a French artillery officer and engineer who revolutionized French cannon, creating a new production system that allowed lighter, more uniform guns without sacrificing range. His Gribeauval system superseded the de Vallière system. These guns proved essential to French military victories during the Napoleonic wars. Gribeauval is credited as the earliest known advocate for interchangeability of gun parts. He is thus one of the principal influences on the later development (over many decades by many people) of interchangeable manufacture.[1]

Early life

Jean-Baptiste was born in Amiens, the son of a magistrate. He entered the French royal artillery in 1732 as a volunteer, and became an officer in 1735.[2] For nearly twenty years regimental duty and scientific work occupied him, and in 1752 he became captain of a company of miners.[3] In 1755, he was employed in a military mission in Prussia.[3]

In 1757, being then a lieutenant colonel, he was lent to the Austrian army on the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, and established the Austrian sapper corps.[4] He led the sapping operations at the Siege of Glatz and the defence of Schweidnitz.[5] At Schweidnitz, his 1748 design of fortification gun was tested and significantly improved by Master Carpenter Richter.[6]

In 1762, he reported back to the Paris authorities on the Austrian artillery system compared with the existing French de Vallière guns.[7][8] While with the Austrian army he also worked on the continued development of the "globes of compression" (shrapnel shells)[9] of French engineer Bernard Forest de Belidor.[10]

The empress Maria Theresa rewarded him for his work with the rank of Feldmarschallleutnant and the cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa.[11][12] On his return to France he was made Maréchal de camp (major general), in 1764 Inspector of artillery, and in 1765 Lieutenant général and commander of the Order of St Louis.[13]

Gribeauval system

Main article: Gribeauval system
Part of the Gribeauval system: cannons of 12, 8 and 4.
Canon de 12 Gribeauval, An 2 de la Republique (1793–1794).

Subsequently he was for some years in disfavour at court. However, he became first inspector of artillery in 1776, in which year also he received the grand cross of the St Louis Order. He was now able to carry out the reforms in the artillery arm which are his chief title to fame, although he failed to introduce a field howitzer and his system still included 25 wheel sizes. The 'Table des constructions des principaux attirails de l'artillerie ... de M. de Gribeauval' covers all the French artillery equipment in detail. He was also responsible for the règlement for the French artillery issued in 1776. Although much of the work is not directly attributable to Gribeauval, these systems of organization and uniformity in ordnance have been called le système Gribeauval.


  1. Hounshell 1984, pp. 25–32.
  2. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p18
  3. 1 2 Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p20
  4. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p24-27
  5. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p27-29
  6. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p37-41
  7. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p27
  8. Smith (2011) SOJ-2, p61-65
  9. McCloy, Shelby Thomas (1952). French inventions of the eighteenth century. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press. OCLC 560969.
  10. The French engineer BF de Belidor actually invented the shell, commonly attributed to the British Major Henry Shrapnel. Vesilind, P. Aarne (2006). "Peace Engineering". Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice. 132 (4): 283287. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1052-3928(2006)132:4(283).
  11. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p29
  12. Smith (2011) SOJ-1, p59-60
  13. Summerfield (2011) SOJ-2, p14


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