Fireworks: The Chinese invent explosive entertainment
Fireworks familiar now in sound and light shows on dark evenings, to celebrate festivals and to entertain, were invented in China around 1,000 years ago, following the invention of gunpowder in the first century C.E. Bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder, were thrown onto fires to create explosions at religious festivals, perhaps in the belief that the noise they made would scare off evil spirits. It is highly likely that some of these little bombs shot like rockets out of the fire, propelled by the gases they produced.
The next step seems likely to have been to attach such charged bamboo tubes to sticks and fire them with bows. The earliest evidence of devices that could be described as firework rockets comes from a written report of the battle of Kai-Keng in 1232 during the war between China and Mongolia, in which the Chinese attacked with “arrows of flying fire”. After Kai-Keng, the Mongols began to make rockets as well and probably took these with them on their travels to Europe.
There is documentary evidence for experiments involving rockets in Europe throughout the nineteenth to fifteenth centuries. English Franciscan friar and philosopher Roger Bacon (circa 1214-1294) reported on his experiments to improve gunpowder and increase the range of rockets and in France, Jean Froissart (circa 1337-1405) commented that rockets could be fired more accurately if launched from tubes.
For the first 700 years of their existence, fireworks were available only in one color (yellow) until the French chemist Claude Berthollet discovered potassium chlorate in around 1800 and began the development of new colors for fireworks.