German alchemist Berthold Schwarz, shown in this picture mixing gunpowder while an assistant works with a cannon.
European gunpowder boxes.
Gunpowder in Europe
The Europeans were the last major Eurasian group to learn the secret of gunpowder. Their late acquaintence with gunpowder, however, would not prevent them from making their mark on the substance's development. Europeans pushed gunpowder technology to its limits, refining the existing formulas and creating new uses for gunpowder.

Gunpowder reached Europe through the rich Silk Road trade. The chemical formula for gunpowder and the refinement process reached Europe in completed form by the late 13th century. Roger Bacon, a renowned early European alchemist (1214 – 1292), set forth the marvels of the world; among them he listed the ingredients of gunpowder. With the ingredients of gunpowder revealed European scientists, inventors and alchemists were ready to improve gunpowder.

European alchemists created corned gunpowder. Corned gunpowder contained the same chemicals as normal gunpowder but the refining process involved mixing the gunpowder into a wet substance and then drying the mixture. A German friar, Berthold Schwarz, is credited with inventing the first European cannon in 1353. Firearms which had been invented in China or the Middle East were improved upon by Europeans. Advanced European metal work techniques allowed European metalsmiths to create stronger and more durable rifles; they also learned how to calculate the amount of force of the gas in the chamber of the gun. This knowledge help create guns that fired greater distances. 

Europeans were still improving gunpowder a century after the Chinese had invented the first gun. The European advancements of gunpowder would reach China by a Portuguese ship in 1520 AD. The Portuguese introduced the cannon, improved rifles and other European advancements to the Chinese. Hundreds of years after the invention of gunpowder the Europeans had returned the substance to its origin and gunpowder's journey through Asia had come full circle.

Gunpowder's Return to China

Gunpowder Index Page / China Discovers Gunpowder / Islamic Scientists Adapt Gunpowder / The Mongols Transmit Gunpowder