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When and where was gunpowder probably invented?

Read about when and where gunpowder was probably invented.

Gunpowder has a long history. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Gunpowder has a long history.

When and where gunpowder was probably invented has been narrowed down to China. The explosive mixture of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal called gunpowder was known in China at least by 850 C.E., and probably was discovered by Chinese alchemists searching for components to make artificial gold.

Early mixtures had too little saltpeter (50 percent) to be truly explosive; 75 percent minimum is needed to get a detonation. So the first use of the mixture was in making fireworks. Later, the Chinese used it in incendiary-like weapons for warfare. Eventually it is thought that the Chinese found the correct proportions to utilize its explosive effects in rockets and bamboo bullets. H

owever, some authorities still maintain that the Chinese gunpowder really had only pyrotechnic qualities, and true gunpowder was an European invention. Roger Bacon (1214 - 1292) had a formula for it and so might have the German monk Berthold Schwartz (1313 - 1353). But its first European use depended on the development of firearms in the 14th century. Not until the 17th century was gunpowder used in peacetime in mining and civil engineering applications.

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