The invention of gunpowder afforded man a means of utilizing the energy of chemical separation in effecting propulsion and of more efficiently applying this form of energy in mining and quarrying. Through the discovery or invention of mercuric fulminate, the cellulose nitrates, the glyceryl nitrates, the nitro-substitution compounds, and the various explosive compositions made from these nitrates and nitro-compounds, man was enabled also to utilize the energy stored up in unstable molecules. History indicates that the invention of gunpowder was made where saltpeter, which is its chief ingredient, was naturally most abundant and most easily obtained, but that, owing to the great value of gunpowder to man, its use and manufacture spread to the cooler and more humid countries and it is in these countries that it, and the other explosives enumerated, have come to be most extensively used.
The Nitrogen Question from the Military Standpoint
By Charles E. Munroe, Professor of Chemistry, George Washington University