2021-10-07 18:59:36 This Chemist’s Pandemic Hobby? Firing Medieval Cannonballs.
This Chemist’s Pandemic Hobby? Firing Medieval Cannonballs.
According to Dr. Rogers, the first big guns blew up “a lot.” The explosions killed gunners as well as a Scottish king in one case. As an example of failure, he cited a siege of a fortress in Vellexon, France, in 1409. During a civil war, Burgundians used eight bombardments to pummel the castle’s walls with large cannonballs — and two of the artillery pieces exploded. For months, the siege dragged on without success.
The team discovered that the amount of heat released during an explosion decreased steadily from the 1330s to 1400s in its gunpowder analyses, implying “the need for safer recipes that did not put medieval gunners at risk or cause cannon damage,” according to the report. At the same time, the most recent guns grew in size and effectiveness.
Dr. Rogers referred to it as a watershed moment in Western history.
“It was huge because it shifted the balance between offense and defense,” he explained. Castles and fortresses had long been considered impenetrable. However, by the 1400s, big guns had advanced so dramatically that successful sieges began to shrink from years and months to weeks and days.
“You couldn’t hide in your castle any longer,” Dr. Rogers explained. “You needed an army to defend your country, not just a fortress if you wanted to defend your country.” He went on to say that the geopolitical ramifications were massive. “It fundamentally altered the nature of warfare.”
The study’s lead chemist, Dr. Riegner, said the five experts were planning new rounds of research to better document the subtle effects of the various recipes. However, she added, the waning of the pandemic and the reopening of schools had created a problem. Team members, including herself and her daughter, no longer have a lot of free time.
“We’re all interested and excited, but now that we’re back in the classroom, we have other responsibilities,” she explained. “Perhaps we’ll be able to work it out in the spring.”