(Berthold the Black) is a legendary or semi-legendary German alchemist
of the late 14th century, credited with the invention of gunpowder
in literature of the 15th and 16th centuries.
It is clear that Schwarz was not the original discoverer of gunpowder, even in Europe.Gunpowder had been known in China since at least the 11th century. In Europe, it had been known a century before Schwarz; gunpowder is mentioned in 1267 in Roger Bacon
's Epistola de secretis operibus artiis et naturae
, and a recipe recorded by one Marcus Graecus
or Mark the Greek is dated to between 1280 and 1300.The purported period of Schwarz' activity (late 14th century) thus falls between the first reports of gunpowder in Europe (late 13th century) and the development of effective applications in artillery
(mid 15th century).
It is unclear whether Schwarz is a historical person. It has been suggested that he was a historical alchemist who had developed gunpowder in Germany, but other scholars consider him purely legendary.Schwarz is possibly identical with Bertold von Lützelstetten, a scholar who is recorded as "magister artium Bertoldus" at the University of Paris during 1329-1336.Other sources identify him with one Konstantin Angeleisen or Anklitzen who was persecuted for being an alchemist and had to flee to Prague, where he was executed in 1388.It is also possible that Schwarz is not a historical person at all, but a symbolic inventor figure taking his name from that of......