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Many people will be attending firework displays this weekend and will be wowed by exploding rockets, whirling Catherine wheels, and showers of golden and silver rain. Similar entertainment was on offer back in the seventeenth century.


In his book The Art of Gunnery published in 1647, the mathematician and Master Gunner of the City of Worcester, Nathaniel Nye, described the manufacture of gunpowder, the operation of ordnance of various sizes, and how to determine distances and trajectories for a gun attack on a city or fortification without using advanced mathematics. However, he also provided instructions for the manufacture of recreational fireworks, and even how to make soothing ointments for any resulting burns.