Fly and Violently Dance: The Explosive History of Alchemists, Knights and Ninjas | Ancient Origins Members Site


Fly and Violently Dance: The Explosive History of Alchemists, Knights and Ninjas

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Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, shows how ninjas concealed and booby trapped their weapons.

Fly and Violently Dance: The Explosive History of Alchemists, Knights and Ninjas

The first European records of gunpowder were written in the 13th century by Roger Bacon, the English philosopher and Franciscan friar who was believed by many to have been a wizard. In 1248, a missionary allegedly brought Bacon a device from China used in celebrations, known as a ‘firecracker’, which he pulled apart and analyzed, attempting to discover why it exploded so violently.  Bacon soon worked out that the active powdery black substance was a mixture of saltpeter and other chemicals which was identified as a ‘huge danger’ so he subsequently enciphered the secret formula, attempting to keep its destructive powers from falling into the wrong hands.

Roger Bacon Discovers Gunpowder, from Bill Nye's Comic History of England. (Public Domain)

Roger Bacon Discovers Gunpowder, from Bill Nye's Comic History of England. (Public Domain)

Discovery of Gunpowder

The original discovery of gunpowder, however, was detailed in Yoke Ho Peng’s 1985 book Li, Qi and Shu: An Introduction to Science and Civilization in China. In 142 AD, during the Han Dynasty in China, an alchemist called Wei Boyang who had been searching for an Elixir of Life: “accidentally discovered the explosive effects of mixing saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur and charcoal” and he was the first person to write about gunpowder as a mixture of three powders that would: “fly and dance violently.”


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