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History of Gunpowder

Sir Dig-a-lot | 7-14 yrs | Interactive, Reading Pod

Invention of the First Chemical Explosive

On a Wednesday night Sir Dig A Lot was sitting with Rohan thinking about the next lesson he should teach Rohan. When he finally thought of a topic he said “I have told you about war and the superpowers, strong dynasties and great battles, dangerous weapons and nuclear bombs, do you know the history of the first chemical explosive?”

Rohan jumped excitedly “No! But tell me!”

Sir Dig A Lot spoke “Gunpowder was discovered by the Chinese as the first chemical propellant. It is popularly listed as one of the four great inventions of the Chinese. For many years gunpowder was the only explosive warfare chemical. The invention of gunpowder was perhaps made by the Tang dynasty, about which we have already talked about.”

Rohan said “Yes I remember, the golden age”

Sir Dig A lot said “That’s right! As a result of conquests and wars, the knowledge of making gunpowder spread to other parts of the world. It was only used as a fumigant to kill insects or to treat skin diseases, before its use in weapons which happened only in the 15th century. The development of gunpowder had begun during the Han dynasty but the studies were only completed by the Tang. Initially gunpowder was used in rockets made out of bamboo tubes and launched with bows. It was only later that the Chinese realized that the tubes could launch themselves on their own when gunpowder was lit and gas escaped.”

“The gunpowder was further developed by the Arabs and in Europe and India. It used in firearms, cannons and huge guns in the 17th century by the Mughals. Hyder Ali, the price of Mysore, developed rockets further using metal pipes which were popularized further by his son Tipu Sultan. The news of these rockets spread to Europe and China and hence knowledge was shared. Europe had advance technologies with regard to the use of metal. They were the first to use gunpowder in hand held guns and muskets. Cannon technology was gradually developed in Europe over the use of muskets and spread to the other parts of the world, especially China. Apart from weapons, gunpowder was later realized to be useful in many other domains such as mining, building canals and building tunnels. The first canal to be built with large scale use of gunpowder was Canal Du Midi in France.”

“Gunpowder was replaced with sophisticated explosives like mercury, later. There were several problems with the use of gunpowder in weapons.
Moisture from the air would make it unusable. The loading of gunpowder was a clumsy process. Development of bullets or cartridges made it easier to use gunpowder in weapons.”

“That was an interesting lesson on the beginning of weapons in warfare. I guess I should sleep now.” said Rohan

“Well said Rohan! Good Night” said Sir Dig A Lot as he left.

For more such interesting history articles and videos, go to History for Kids.