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A History Of Fireworks46:42
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Tom Gjelten in for Tom Ashbook

Fireworks and the 4th of July. We’ll look at the history and science of pyrotechnics.

Fireworks explode above New York City during a July 4th celebration. (AP)
Fireworks explode above New York City during a July 4th celebration. (AP)

By the rockets’ red glare. The US fireworks industry is now a billion-dollar-a-year business And most of the action is on this fourth of July weekend.

Fireworks, of course, were invented in China thousands of years ago. But did you know why? To scare away evil spirits.

Here in the United States, fireworks were shot off on the very first fourth of July celebration in 1777. And every year since.

This year’s fireworks will more colorful and complex than ever.

This hour On Point: The history and science of fireworks –- and what goes into a fireworks display.

-Tom Gjelten

Guests:

John Conkling, adjunct professor of chemistry at Washington College. He also the author of "Chemistry of Pyrotechnics: Basic Principles and Theory."

Eric Tucker, pyrotechnic designer of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

Phil Grucci, CEO of Pyrotechnique by Grucci. He was the chief fireworks designer for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

More:

  • pyrouniverse.com has an excellent history
  • Anatomy of a Firework Where you see brilliant light and vivid color, a pyrotechnician sees a successful lift charge, black powder mix, time-delay fuse, bursting charge, and other essential ingredients.
  • Pyrotechnically Speaking Dr. John Conkling, adjunct professor of chemistry at Washington College and former executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, describes what it is about fireworks that gets him, well, all fired up.

This program aired on July 1, 2011.

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