Q:

Who discovered gunpowder?

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Quick Answer

Chinese Taoist alchemists combined sulphur, saltpeter and charcoal to make the earliest form of huoyao, or gunpowder, during the eighth-century Tang Dynasty. It was used to kill insects and treat skin diseases before its weaponry advantages were realized.

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Who discovered gunpowder?
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Full Answer

Emperor Wu Di financed research during the Han Dynasty for the Taoist alchemists to mix sulfur and saltpeter. The original reason for this research was to focus on secrets of eternal life. Chinese alchemist Wei Boyanghe wrote the "Book of the Kinship of the Three," which detailed the experiments. The Chinese first launched gunpowder tubes using arrows; however, they soon discovered that gunpowder tubes could launch on their own due to power from the gas that escapes.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where was gunpowder invented?

    A:

    Gunpowder was invented in China in the ninth century during the reign of the Tang Dynasty. Though initially used to create fireworks, gunpowder was also used by the Chinese during a 10th-century war against the Mongols.

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  • Q:

    How does gunpowder work?

    A:

    HowStuffWorks explains that gunpowder functions through a chemical reaction between the combination of sulfur, charcoal and an oxidizer, usually either saltpeter or niter. The saltpeter acts as an oxidizer, and the sulfur and charcoal combine together to act as fuel. Also commonly referred to as "black powder," gunpowder can be used as both a propellant, as in both guns and fireworks, and as an explosive.

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  • Q:

    Why was gunpowder so important?

    A:

    According to LiveScience, the development of gunpowder was important in warfare first for its psychological effects, as the Chinese used explosive arrows called "flying fire" against their Mongol enemies. When the invention migrated to the West, however, its real value was in its ability to power deadly siege weapons and eventually put accurate firepower in the hands of ordinary soldiers.

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  • Q:

    Who first discovered carbon?

    A:

    The first civilizations known to have made use of carbon were the Sumerians and Egyptians, who used charcoal as a smokeless fuel and for smelting metal ores. Later recorded uses of charcoal for medicinal purposes were found in Egyptian and Greek texts dating back to between 1500 and 400 B.C. In 1772, the French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier, demonstrated that diamonds were a form of carbon.

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