* And close an airy ocean. l. 242. Gunpowder is plainly described in the works of Roger Bacon before the year 1267. He describes it in a curious manner, mentioning the sulphur and nitre, but conceals the charcoal in an anagram. The words are, sed tamen salis petrae lure mope can ubre, et sulphuris; et sic facies tonitrum, et corrusca∣tionem, si scias, artificium. The words lure mope can ubre are an anagram of carbonum pulvere. Biograph. Britan. Vol. I. Bacon de Secretis Operibus, Cap. XI. He adds, that he thinks by an artifice of this kind Gideon defeated the Midianites with only three hundred men. Judges, Chap. VII. Chamb. Dict. art. Gunpowder. As Bacon does not claim this as his own invention, it is thought by many to have been of much more antient discovery.
The permanently elastic fluid generated in the firing of gunpowder is calculated by Mr. Robins to be about 244 if the bulk of the powder be I. And that the heat gene∣rated at the time of the explosion occasions the rarefied air thus produced to occupy about 1000 times the space of the gunpowder. This pressure may therefore be called equal to 1000 atmospheres or six tons upon a square inch. As the suddenness of this explosion must contribute much to its power, it would seem that the chamber of powder, to produce its greatest effect, should be lighted in the centre of it; which I believe is not attended to in the manufacture of muskets or pistols.
From the cheapness with which a very powerful gunpowder is likely soon to be manufactured from aerated marine acid, or from a new method of forming nitrous acid by means of mangonese or other calciform ores, it may probably in time be applied to move machinery, and supersede the use of steam.
There is a bitter invective in Don Quixot against the inventors of gun-powder, as it levels the strong with the weak, the knight cased in steel with the naked shepherd, those who have been trained to the sword, with those who are totally unskilful in the use of it; and throws down all the splendid distinctions of mankind. These very rea∣sons ought to have been urged to shew that the discovery of gunpowder has been of public utiliy by weakening the tyranny of the few over the many.
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