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Incendiary crossbow bolts anyone? The space between the invention of gunpowder and cannon was 12 centuries, so I don't see special contributions made for the Ancient Greeks. Better luck against the Arabs and Turks tho. Constantinople probably holds out.

Last edited: Nov 10, It's actually likely that greek Fire did lead to gunpowder, though not directly. The main problem is that our main sources for incendiary werapons are much later, so we can't be sure whether they reflect adequately what the earliest types were like, but in an era before gunpowder, engineers routinely used sulphur and saltpetre in their mixtures, and they were aware that you could use saltpetre to intensify the burning of other substances. How far back this goes is anyone's guess. Was Greek Fire really that impressive?

It seems to me that if it was the devastating superweapon people seem to think it was it would not have been forgotten by the Byzantines. Joined: Dec 15, Location: The vast cubicle steppes of Delmarvastan.

The ori­gin of gun­pow­der

The danger of earlier gunpowder is that the first army of non-Romans that besieges Constantinople with cannons will take it just like the Ottomans did IOTL. Cannons negate fortifications of the sort that were built there, and the earlier emergence of gunpowder armies would have major ramifications for Europe if these armies end up wiping out Constantinople to attack the feuding nobles of Europe. After that, the powder in desired quantity is put into an envelope for flying or for making thunder.

Note that the envelope for flying ought to be thin and long and well-filled with the abovedescribed powder tightly packed, while the envelope for making thunder ought to be short and thick, only half-filled with powder, and tightly tied up at both ends with an iron wire.

Note that a small hole ought to be made in each envelope for the introduction of the match. The match ought to be thin at both ends, thick in the middle, and filled with the above-described powder. The envelope intended to fly in the air has as many thicknesses [ply] as one pleases; that for making thunder, however, has a great many. Here we have the first historical description of how to make not only a black powder, but rockets and firecrackers as well! Note that this formulation differs from that of Greek Fire: whether it be pumped by hand or driven through nozzles by the force of oxidized combustion, Greek Fire was an incendiary liquid which could be accurately directed at enemies, while this last-mentioned composition was a dry black powder which could be used to make pyrotechnical self-propelling devices i.

Even today, willow charcoal is considered by pyrotechnists to be the best form of carbon to use in making gunpowder! Because Greek Fire was the first incendiary substance to make use of an oxidizer saltpeter , and because further experimentation along these lines unquestionably led to the development of black powder, it may be said that Greek Fire was the direct ancestor of black powder, and in turn, of all pyrotechnical and explosive compositions.

The first mention of a primitive form of black powder in China was in the mid-Ninth Century work, Classified Essentials of the Mysterious Tao of the True Origin of Things, attributed to Cheng Yin, in which he warns against mixing this powder because of the danger of burning both the experimenter and the house in which the experiment is taking place.

The next historical mention of black powder occurs around in China, when Tseng Kung-Liang published three different. Thus it can be seen that the Chinese unquestionably advanced the state of the art of fireworks, and invented guns and fragmentation bombs to fully exploit the power of black powder and because they invented guns it may even be said that the Chinese invented gunpowder i. Nearly every Web-site which gives him mention places him in a different century. He has been dated anywhere from the Eighth Century to the Thirteenth Century, and none of the web-pages cite any historical references to lend credence to their estimates, but these mutuallycontradictory estimates are always stated as if they were beyond question.

Davis, Ph. Davis cites Hoefers Histoire de la Chimie, second edition, Paris, , Volume 1, pages and a further discussion in the same source, Volume 1, page Until I see any compelling historical evidence to the contrary, the Eighth Century is the timeframe into which I will continue to place Marcus Graecus and hence, the invention of Black Powder. The Historical Importance of Black Powder: The discovery that a mixture of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal is capable of doing useful mechanical work is quite simply one of the most important discoveries of all time, and it was an invention which profoundly changed all of history.

Three great discoveries in effect ended that stagnant millennium known as the Middle Ages: 1 the discovery of the New World, which made available new foods, new drugs, new natural resources, and new lands in which people might prosper, multiply, develop new cultures, and escape religious oppression; 2 the re-introduction of Greek thinking through books preserved by the Moslems, along with the all-important invention of printing, which made possible the rapid, cheap, and widespread diffusion of ideas and knowledge, so that the Theocrats no longer had complete control over what ideas the people may or may not be exposed to, and, 3 the discovery of the controllable force of gunpowder, which made possible huge.

Of course it goes without saying that gunpowder changed the face of war, for now the stronger, the faster, the fiercer, or the more skilled swordsman or archer would not automatically prevail in combat, but rather the wilier, the more ruthless, and the better shot. Gunpowder also ushered in the Industrial Revolution for, as a blasting powder, it gave man unprecedented access to coal and minerals in the earth, which in turn brought on directly the age of iron and steel, and with it the era of machines, and of rapid transportation and communication.

It is often said that the Chinese invented gunpowder during Europes Dark Ages, and if we mean by gunpowder black powder manufactured for the purpose of propelling bullets from guns, then this statement is indeed technically correct, for the Chinese do appear to have invented the gun although there is a German tradition, perpetuated by a monument in Freiburg, which claims that the priority for the invention of both the gun and gunpowder belongs to a Thirteenth or Fourteenth Century Franciscan monk named Berthold Schwarz, a dabbler in black magic. No contemporary accounts of the friars alleged discovery remain, however.

Obviously, a substance called gunpowder could not exist before the invention of a device which relies on that substance, a device called the gun, and so we must concede that those that invented the gun probably the Chinese were also the ones to first use gunpowder, if gunpowder is taken to mean black powder which is intended for the purpose of propelling bullets from guns.

But what about black powder? Werent black powder and gunpowder originally one and the same substance? And if so, doesnt this mean that the Chinese also invented that? Yes, black powder and gunpowder were originally one and the same substance, but this does not necessarily mean that black powder did not exist before the Chinese invented the gun.

In point of fact, there is historical evidence such as that provided by Marcus Graecus work that black powder and similar mixtures were used in incendiary compositions and in pyrotechnic devices for amusement and for war long before the invention of the gun. Apart from its early use as an incendiary in the form of a pyrotechnical fountain it is also possible that black powder was used in petards [bombs used for blowing down gateways], long before it was used for its ballistic effect.

Thus we must conclude that the mixture known as black powder existed long before that same mixture came to be called gunpowder in deference to the new and important application for which this mixture was increasingly being used. Basic Theory Behind Chemical Explosives: The inactive element nitrogen does not unite easily with other elements. If it should do so, the unions so produced are very unstable. In fact, the nitrogen compounds are so unstable that on the slightest provocation the nitrogen breaks away with a bang!

Most explosives, except nuclear explosives, depend upon this fact a notable exception being that class of explosive mixtures which is based upon the oxidizing power of chlorates or perchlorates. In addition, some explosives contain ammonium NH4 radicals. When compounds that contain nitrate or nitro radicals are mixed with other compounds that can easily use the oxygen of these unstable radicals, an explosive is the result.

In certain cases, the compound containing the nitrate or nitro radicals actually supplies the means of its own destruction by furnishing the elements that can use the oxygen readily.

When something, such as a shock or flame, starts the reaction, the unstable nitrate or nitro radicals release their oxygen for combination with other elements and liberate free nitrogen gas. Nearly always, most of the other products of the reaction are gases also, and because of the high attendant temperatures produced, terrific pressures result.

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Who invented gunpowder? | History Forum

Note that the theoretical chemical reaction of a Black Powder explosion does not precisely describe what really happens in practical situations. This is largely because powdered Charcoal is not pure carbon, but in addition to the carbon which predominates, it also contains hydrogen, oxygen, and ash. In practice, the gaseous products of Black Powder combustion include not only carbon dioxide and nitrogen, but also carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane and hydrogen.

Similarly, in practice potassium. In addition, in many cases, not all of the potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon are consumed in the explosion, so that traces of these especially the sulfur remain with the other solid products of the reaction. The optimum proportions of the ingredients of black powder lie in the range Sometimes a slower burning powder is desirable though, as in the case of rockets.

If charged with a too-vigorous formula of black powder, rockets tend to explode instead of traveling. Rockets of different take-off weights require different fuel formulas. In making Black Powder rockets, experiment, consistency, and careful record-keeping are the key, but the rule of thumb is that if rockets burst before or while ascending, one should add more or coarser charcoal dust to the formula, and if they ascend too slowly one should add more saltpeter.

Black Powder is no longer used in modern firearms except in the muzzle-loaders used by nostalgic history buffs owing to the vast quantities of acrid smoke produced by its combustion, and the considerable amount of residue left in the barrel of the gun necessitating frequent cleaning. Most modern guns now use a nitrocellulose smokeless powder which burns much cleaner than black powder.

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Smokeless powder not only produces less smoke and residue than does Black Powder, but what little smoke is produced also stinks less, for the by-products of nitrocellulose combustion do not contain sulfides as do the by-products of Black Powder combustion the latter of which include hydrogen sulfide, a gas which helps to give rotten eggs and intestinal gaseous emissions their smell. Indeed, the etymology of Petard the medieval black powder bomb used for blasting down castle gates reflects this olfactory, if not quite auditory similarity, for petarade is a French word for farting.

Although no longer used in firearms, Black Powder is still much-used in pyrotechnics, though the fireworks industry uses black powder extensively for making fuses and priming, and a coarse grade of black powder called lift powder is still used as the propellant of every mortar-fired aerial shell, and an ultra-fine grade of black powder called meal powder is used as the burst charge in many aerial star shells, whether by itself or coated on rice hulls. Black Powder is really a deflagrating explosive, not a detonating explosive. This means that in small quantities Black Powder burns vigorously and rapidly with a puff of smoke and a flash of light but does not really explode unless it is confined, whereas the detonating explosives do not require confinement in order to produce an explosion.

Mind you, a sufficiently large quantity of Black Powder can explode, even unconfined, but it takes on the order of pounds of Black Powder in order to achieve such unconfined detonation. Contrast this with Flash Powder, which will detonate with concussion in open air with no container if the amount of flash powder exceeds about 50 grams less.

Manufacture of Black Powder: If you were to combine potassium nitrate, powdered charcoal, and sulfur even in exactly the correct proportions you would likely be in for a disappointment, for the resulting Black Powder, although it would burn quite well, would also burn quite slowly for an explosive. It turns out that the physical state of the ingredients plays a very important rle in the performance of the Black Powder.

The ingredients must be pulverized almost to molecular fineness, either by arduous grinding via mortar and pestle, or by tumbling in a ball mill with grinding balls for many hours. Even then, the performance of home-made Black Powder cannot compare with that of its commerciallymanufactured counterpart. Home-made Black Powder can successfully be used to propel skyrockets, and can be induced to explode if strongly confined say, within a pipebomb, where the unrelieved heat and pressure accelerate the powders combustion reaction until the pipe ruptures explosively, throwing dangerous shrapnel but if the goal is to loft or burst a pyrotechnical shell, or to produce a Black-Powder-dispersed-fuelair fireball, it would be best to stick to commercially-manufactured Black Powder.

Commercially-manufactured Black Powder is subjected to considerable processing in order to make it burn as swiftly as it does. The ingredients are either mixed in the dampened state, or the sulfur and charcoal are stirred into a hot saturated solution of potassium nitrate and then allowed to cool. The resulting mixture is then milled for 3 hours under wheels which weigh 8 to 10 tons each and then hydraulically pressed at pounds per square inch.

Finally, in the most dangerous phase of the operation, the pressed Black Powder cakes are cracked or crushed between several sets of crusher rolls, and shaken on sieves until the particles are just the right size for use, and as a final step the granulated powder is rounded or polished by tumbling in a revolving wooden barrel, sometimes being dried at the same time by forcing a stream of warm air through the barrel.

If a glazed powder is desired, the glaze graphite is usually applied before the final drying and the Black Powder, still warm from the tumbling, is tumbled a while longer together with the graphite. A test which has been used since ancient times to determine the quality of black powder is carried out by dumping a small sample onto a cold flat surface and setting fire to it. A good powder ought to burn in a flash and leave no pearls of residue, or globules of fused salts.

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A solid residue indicates that either the ingredients have not been incorporated intimately enough to begin with, or that the powder has at some time in its history been wet, causing the saltpeter to crystallize out of the mixture, forming large crystals which undo the effects of all that processing meant to intimately incorporate the three ingredients. As defined by the U. Government, proof spirit i. The term proof-spirit is a relic of the days when there was no ready method of.

A spirit was considered under proof if it contained so much water that gunpowder moistened with it refused to burn, and was called over-proof if it did not prevent the ignition of gunpowder. Thus, proof-spirit was a spirit of such a strength that it barely allowed gunpowder dampened with it to burn, the addition of a very small amount of water rendering the spirit under-proof. If the goal is to make an explosive on the spur of the moment, Flash Powder [of which the formula appears later on] is a far better choice than Black Powder. It is easy to make successfully, and pound-for-pound, it is not only far more powerful than Black Powder, but is even more powerful than dynamite although it is useless as a projectile propellant for it would blow apart the barrel of any gun or mortar it was set off in.

Nevertheless, there are applications for which there is no substitute for Black Powder notably, as a pyrotechnical shell propellant, and in fuses and pyrotechnical priming and so it may at times be necessary to make Black Powder at home or in the field. Improvised Munitions Black Book, Volume 1.