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Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World
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Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  19 reviews
When Chinese alchemists fashioned the first manmade explosion sometime during the tenth century, no one could have foreseen its full revolutionary potential. Invented to frighten evil spirits rather than fuel guns or bombs-neither of which had been thought of yet-their simple mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal went on to make the modern world possible. As word of i ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Basic Books
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I loved this book and only gave it 3 stars because I dont think its a great book for everyone.
The book gives a detailed history of the invention and progress of gunpowder manufacturing. It is a very easy read with some terminology and jargon that you may have to look up, but overall I believe it to be very approachable for the everyday reader. Kelly does a good job of pointing out how the use of gunpowder affected history and for me brought to light how important a few inventors and chemists we
To me this is a five-star book. All about one of the most important inventions of all time, and proves beyond doubt the importance of chemistry. The major (75%) ingredient is potassium nitrate, which was often difficult and expensive to obtain. Its unique property was to give off oxygen when heated, a property I have personally demonstrated in a chemistry lab.

Also includes a significant amount of information on gun development from the earliest hand cannon to post-civil war, and the effects o
Tres Herndon
I recently read a book about how the Mongols changed the world. The Mongols took the Chinese invention of gunpowder and used it during their conquests. But it was the Europeans that really took the ball and ran with it. Goes to show that it's not who invents something first, it's who maximizes its utility.

The book is very accessible, easy to read, but not simple and full of interesting detail. It's an ideal gateway book to inspire research into other areas.

It's fascinating that even today gunpo
Abraham Gustavson
Jack Kelly's Gunpowder is a combination wonderful historical narrative with touches of science dotted throughout. From its' roots in China to the battlefields of the Civil War gunpowder has had a destructive, but yet fascinating impact on mankind. What I liked most about this were the fascinating bits of stories of individuals whose lives were affected by the substance. From a Confederate soldier attempting to dig himself a hole at Gettysburg to child soldiers on running powder to gunners on Eng ...more
Dec 27, 2007 Kellan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: For people who liked "Salt" or "Guns, Germs, and Steel"
I appreciate the growing level of confidence that if through a freak accident involving a skunkworks time travel project, a dimensional flutter, or odd encounter with Mark Twain in a San Francisco back street I was warped to 13th/14th century Europe I would be able to earn my keep improving the state of the gunpowder industry.

Which is the secret hope of everyone reading popular histories of technology -- after all you've got to cover your bases.

I can't help but think this will serve me better in
Carlos Burga
This book was fun though less focused on the science of gunpowder than I expected. Still, Kelly takes the reader through the beginning, apogee and decline of the use of this quite versatile mixture. In that process he analyses both its immediate impact as well as its long lasting effect on both the sciences and on civilization as a whole. Lastly, though sometimes disconnected, Kelly’s prose is for the most part fluid and very easy to read, allowing an interested reader to learn quite a bit of in ...more
Gunpowder is the thousand year story of the development of black powder. The book was interesting, but I got the feeling that everything was being skimmed over. Obviously there is a lot of material to cover, so it is understandable. I would have liked some more diagrams to illustrate some of the points the author was talking about. Overall, it was a good read and I definitely learned a lot about the history of the "devil's distillate". I would recommend brushing up on your American History befor ...more
Bill Sleeman
Dec 05, 2013 Bill Sleeman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history readers

A very good introduction to a specialized subject. Kelly does a fine job explaining the challenges faced in developing gunpowder in the "West" and in the "East" and comparing the two experiences. He also does a good job addressing but not belaboring the moral implications of science and technology employed solely to build bigger and more effective (at killing) weapons. Well researched, cited and informative.
Gunpowder's effect on history. Now, becuase the propellent used in firearms is not actually (unless you are an enthusiast for "black powder" firearms) gunpoweder, it is back where it started from; fireworks
An excellent book that takes the reader from the use of Greek Fire into the development and use of gunpowder and on to the use of explosives in warfare.
A quick history of gunpowder. Some very interesting stuff about its development and use. It could have been longer and I wouldn't have minded at all.
Ray A
Jul 27, 2012 Ray A rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ray A by: Wilhem
Excellently presented history of gunpowder; loved the overview presented on the development of the US gunpowder industry
Katy Stauber
Kind of dry, but pretty thorough. And if you can't be blowing stuff up, the next best thing is to read about it.
Dawn Paris
A good overview of how the science of gunpowder evolved and the key people involved in its development.
Jerry Booth
A great, high-level look at the history of gunpowder. Kelly's writing makes it very accessible.
Fascinating history of gunpowder, recommended for those who like things that go bang and boom.
Clinton King
Great history book, I recommend in to my chemistry students. I really enjoyed it as well.
Good book very informative. Lots of history and cool stuff.
Not great , but it answered the primary question I had.
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