Who Invented Gunpowder?

Gunpowder was first invented by Chinese alchemists around 9th century. It was an accidental discovery and it wasn’t long before gunpowder found its place in the Chinese army. A Chinese text named Zhenyuan Miaodao Yaolue, which dates back to the mid-8th century, gives a reference to gunpowder, indirectly suggesting that gun powder had already been invented when that text was being written. Gunpowder was used as an incendiary substance in the beginning but soon other uses were found. By the 14th century, gunpowder was providing fuel for early military rockets; it was being used in the artillery. From China it found its way to Arabia and from there it spread to the whole world.

GunpowderGunpowder is a mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur. In the mixture, charcoal provides the fuel and potassium nitrate acts as an oxidizing agent (which provides oxygen for burning). Depending upon the end use – whether as rocket fuel or as fire crackers – the composition of the components varies within the mixture. Before the invention of TNT (trinitrotoluene), RDX (1, 3, 5-Trinitroperhydro-1, 3, 5-triazine) and other explosives, gunpowder had solely ruled the field for almost a millennia. By the 12th century, the Mongols, who had learnt about gunpowder from the Chinese, started their invasions in the Middle East and disseminated what they knew – how to prepare gunpowder – to the Arabs. The Crusades began around the same time; therefore, it is likely that the Europeans learnt about gunpowder from the Arabs. However, there are some legends; the most famous is of a German monk, which suggests the Europeans were trying to develop gunpowder on their own. Today, gunpowder is mostly used in the fire cracker industry. Military applications are rare if not nonexistent.

Category: Inventions

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