All things about fireworks
History of Gunpowder
Gunpowder was not invented overnight, as far as historians can tell, it was a gradual process over hundreds of years to get from the initial discovery of an unknown explosive substance, to the sophisticated black powder that we know today. In 142 AD, during the Han Dynasty, a man named Wei Boyang wrote the first recorded text regarding gunpowder. He wrote about a concoction of three powders that would "fly and dance" violently in his “Book of the Kinship of the Three”, which detailed the experiments made by the early alchemists. It’s impossible to be absolutely certain that he was talking about gunpowder, but there is no other explosive known to scientists that uses three powders.
Chinese Taoist alchemists were certainly a major force behind the invention of gunpowder. Emperor Wu Di (156-87 B.C.) of the Han dynasty funded research by the alchemists on the secrets of eternal life. In their search for the elixir of life the alchemists experimented with the sulphur and saltpetre heating the substances in order to transform them.
By 300 AD, a scientist of the Chin dynasty called Ge Hong had actually written the ingredients of gunpowder and described the effects. He made gunpowder by mixing sulphur, charcoal, and saltpetre, also called potassium nitrate. Sulphur is found naturally in our environment as a yellow rock, it is mined and processed to create sulphur that can be used in gunpowder. You can make saltpetre with animal manure by leaving it to sit and decompose, potassium nitrate crystals form in the manure, and these can be drained off by washing the manure through with water. The three separate powders are then mixed together, using roughly fifteen parts of saltpetre to three parts of charcoal and two parts of sulphur. The reason gunpowder explodes is that it burns incredibly quickly and when it burns it releases hot gases that are larger in volume than the original powder, causing a rapid expansion, and thus the explosion.
Origin of fireworks
A firework can be defined as a combustible and/or explosive device for producing a striking display of light and/or a loud noise. Fireworks are used all around the world every day in celebrations ranging from small private birthday parties to state sponsored events. The quality and performance of fireworks has changed a lot since their accidental discovery, and now take on many shapes, forms, and an almost infinite range of colours. Here is a brief outline of the progression of fireworks over the centuries.
It is still unclear exactly when fireworks were first invented. Some think that fireworks first originated in China around 2,000 years ago. The most popular legend has it that fireworks were discovered by accident when a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter (which were all common kitchen items at the time). The mixture burned and when compressed in an enclosed space, exploded.
However, another school of thought places the discovery at some stage in the 9th century during the Song dynasty (960-1279), although this could easily be confusion over the discovery of gunpowder by the cook in the field kitchen and the invention of the firecracker.
Most often credited with the invention of firecrackers - about 1000 years ago - is a monk called Li Tian. He was from the city of Liuyang in Hunan Province, China. This area is still to this day the largest producer of fireworks anywhere in the world. During the Song Dynasty, a temple was built to worship Li Tian and the people of China still celebrate the invention of the firecracker every April 18th by offering sacrifices to Li Tian and setting off fireworks.
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, or the Powder Treason, as it was known at the time, was a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to kill King James I of England (also known as James VI of Scotland), his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy in a single attack by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on the 5th of November 1605. The conspirators also planned to abduct the royal children, who were not present in Parliament and stir up support to incite a revolt.
The Gunpowder Plot was one of many unsuccessful assassination attempts on James I and followed the Main Plot and Bye Plot of 1603. It has been said by some that the government had some degree of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot; however this has never been proved.
Robert Catesby (the real ringleader of the conspiracy) may have felt forced into the plot when hopes of Catholic toleration under King James I faded, which left many Catholics of the time disappointed and uncertain of the future. However, it is more likely Catesby simply envisaged a Catholic future for England brought about by his dastardly scheme. The plot was intended to begin a rebellion during which James' nine-year-old daughter (Princess Elizabeth) could be installed as a Catholic head of state and controlled by Catholic advisors.
The plot was masterminded from May 1604 by Robert Catesby. Other plotters included Thomas Winter, Robert Winter, Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy, John Wright, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham, and Catesby's servant, Thomas Bates. The explosives were prepared by Guy Fawkes, an explosives expert with considerable military experience, who had been introduced to Catesby by a man named Hugh Owen.