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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Magnetic Shell  
  A munition that is powerfully attracted to ferrous ships.  

The recently invented magnetic shell made artillery practice against all vessels of iron a mere mechanical process, demanding no skill whatever. When one of these magnetic shells was thrown anywhere in the vicinity of an iron ship, the powerful magnetism developed within it instantly attracted it to the vessel, which was destroyed by the ensuing contact and explosion. Two ironclads meeting on the ocean need each to fire but one shell to be both destroyed. The inability of iron battle-ships to withstand this improvement in artillery had already set the naval architects of the world upon the work of constructing warships which would not attract the magnetic shell—which was effective even when laid on the bottoms of harbors—and Roland Clewe had been engaged in making plans and experiments for the construction of a paper man-of-war, which he believed would meet the requirements of the situation.
From The Great Stone of Sardis, by Frank Stockton.
Published by Not Known in 1897
Additional resources -

Compare to the atomic bomb from The World Set Free (1914) by HG Wells, the atomic shell from Buck Rogers: 2430 AD (1929) by Nowlan and Calkin, the roving bomb from Lost Rocket (1941) by Manly Wade Wellman, the Wabbler from The Wabbler (1942) by Murray Leinster, the planet-busting bomb from Testing (1956) by JJ Ferat and the smart bullet from Runaway (1985) by Michael Crichton.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Great Stone of Sardis
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  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Stockton

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