The Gunpowder Epic is one of three planned publications on military technology within Dr Needham's immense undertaking. The discovery of gunpowder in China by the 9th century AD was followed by its rapid applications. It is now clear that the whole development from bombs and grenades to the invention of the metal-barrel hand gun took place in the Chinese culture area before Europeans had any knowledge of the mixture itself. Uses in civil engineering and mechanical engineering were equally important, before the knowledge of gunpowder spread to Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Dr Needham's new work continues to demonstrate the major importance of Chinese science and technology to world history and maintains the tradition of one of the great scholarly works of the twentieth century.