Lead: Brought from China by Italian traders over five centuries ago, fireworks are enticing, spectacular, complex and especially dangerous. We love them.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Sometime in the ninth century of the Common Era, Chinese alchemists combined the enriching powers of potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, with charcoal and sulfur. Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, said the resulting wizardry revolutionized the world. Lacking a true gun, however, the Chinese could make little more use of gunpowder in warfare than fire lances and war rockets. Therefore, they used it primarily for entertainment. Not so the Europeans. When they got hold of gunpowder, the cannon soon became a vital component of continental militarism. The social and political landscape of Western Europe and then the world was changed.