The alchemy of gunpowder

Many revolutionary scientific discoveries were made in the alchemical search for the philosopher’s stone. In addition to phosphorus, zinc, and metallic arsenic, alchemical experiments also led to the invention of gunpowder.

As early as the 9th century, Chinese alchemists mixed potassium nitrate (popularly known as saltpeter) with charcoal and sulfur, obtaining explosive results. Texts record that the scientists received burns on their hands and faces and even a house burnt down. The substance was quickly used with arrows to create terrifying new ballistics.

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