Gunpowder Day


There are some technologies that are such good ideas that they seem to be almost magical. Gunpowder is one of these — literally. In 1242, Roger Bacon wrote “On the Marvelous Power of Art and of Nature and on the Nullity of Magic,” an explanation of how gunpowder worked and not coincidentally a defense against those who accused him of witchcraft for using it.

Gunpowder Day doesn’t memorialize Roger Bacon, nor does it celebrate the Chinese use of gunpowder centuries earlier for fireworks and weaponry. It refers to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

King James Stuart of England was about to open Parliament on November 5th, 1605. English Catholics had expected James to be open-minded about Catholicism, but he had disappointed them. Accordingly, a group of politically-minded Catholics decided to do away with King James and as many of his supporters as possible.

Guy Fawkes, the most famous of the group, and his band of conspirators rented a house near the Houses of Parliament and managed to put 36 barrels of gunpowder into the basement of the House of Lords. The barrels were found by guards while Fawkes was hanging around the basement waiting to set them off. He was captured and the plot was foiled.

Within decades, the date became a celebration. Kids ran around asking for “a penny for the guy,” effigies of Guy Fawkes (“the guy) were burned in bonfires, gunpowder was used in fireworks, and revelry reminiscent of Halloween became customary. There is even a rhyme to be recited on the fateful day:

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot!
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes Day, like many celebrations, has become separated from its historical roots. It’s now often known as Gunpowder Day or Bonfire Night. This year, a Seattle brewing company is commemorating it with a new porter called “Gunpowder Plot.” You could drink some while playing the BBC’s Gunpowder Plot game.

But Gunpowder Day really should be a celebration of gunpowder as the first chemical explosive, and one of the earliest amazing technologies.

Another amazing technology is of course the servo motor, and it was with the development of servo motors, a thousand years after the development of gunpowder, that modern fireworks became possible. Servo motors fill the fireworks with gunpowder — safely, with no danger to the operators — and we can all enjoy fireworks on Gunpowder Day.

If your Indramat or Indradrive servos, drives, and controls are giving you trouble, we’re the people to call. (479) 422-0390.

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