There is really no way to tell who invented gunpowder. Like a lot of the ancient inventions we enjoy today, gunpowder came about and was developed gradually through years of testing, use, and perfection. It is interesting that we can trace its origin several centuries into the past. In fact, you can trace the origin of gunpowder into the early days of ancient China.
Though we don’t know who invented gunpowder exactly we can find many people who have written about it and having it mentioned in their annals. One of the earliest records that mention anything like gunpowder dates back to 142 AD during China’s Han Dynasty. Wei Boyang is the first to have written something that described something like it. He wrote about a certain mixture that is made from three powders that dance and fly violently.
Though he did not mention the word gunpowder what he describes is exactly what gunpowder is. We know that gunpowder is an explosive that does contain three foundational ingredients. We can thus surmise that the person who invented gunpowder lived prior to Boyang’s writing.
Ge Hong, a scientist who lived during China’s Chin Dynasty around 300 AD wrote down the ingredients of gunpowder. Though having mentioned the ingredients he is not credited as the one who invented gunpowder. Ge Hong even went on to describe the explosion it makes. You mix the appropriate portions of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate to make it.
People really began to put gunpowder to use in 700 AD during the T’ang Dynasty. The emperors during this dynasty used gunpowder in order to put up elaborate fireworks displays. But it was only in the year 904 AD when it was put to use as a weapon. The first weapons that used it were rockets, but not like the powerful rockets that we know of today. The weapon was kept secret until 1100 AD when the Roman and Islamic empires began to understand how gunpowder works.
Cannons and Other Projectile Weaponry
Inventors from both Europe and China gradually invented the cannon in the 1300’s. A tube made of bronze that shoots iron balls using gunpowder was utilized. The usual target of such a siege weapon includes towns and castles. It soon reached Africa though people never knew about it until 200 years after. Portuguese explorers put them to use during their expeditions in the 1400’s.
Though we really do not know who invented gunpowder, we can trace its beginnings through those who wrote about them. We may trace its development and utilization but never the one who invented gunpowder.