Inventors and inventions Learning Tapestry. Who invented pencil?
In 1795, a French officer belonging to the army of Napoleon invented and patented the first quality pencil on earth. Nicholas Jacques Conte (aka NJ Conte) discovered that ground graphite, when mixed with the right kinds of clay, produced the best lead for pencils. A great myth is that pencilsare made oflead, but the thin black material in pencils isactuallya mix of graphite, carbon, and clay. NJ Conte,managed toturn thisgraphite into powder, mixing it with moist doughs of clay and thenpressing the materials into thin sticks, which were then ‘cooked’ to make the ‘pencil lead’. The modern wooden casing seen in most originalpencils today would soon follow, providing a no-mess and more shatter-resistant protection for the product. The Faber family would soon take on this product into mass production, and the rest is history.
Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s. During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright yellow to communicate this "regal" feeling and association with China. However, according to Henry Petroski's history of the pencil, the European producer Koh-I-Noor was the first to paint one of their pencils yellow.
Some time prior to about 1560, graphite was discovered near Borrowdale, England, supposedly when a large tree was uprooted in a storm, exposing a black substance beneath its roots. The usefulness of graphite as a marking substance was quickly realized. Though the exact date is not known for certain, the year 1565 marks the first record of a pencil consisting of a piece of graphite inserted into a wood shaft, making the first ancestor of today's pencil.
Since graphite was discovered in England, it is most likely that the first pencils were made in England, though this is not known for certain. The pencil was further developed by European craftsmen.
It is not known who invented the first pencil. The pencil was first documented in 1565 by Conrad Gesner, and its invention is sometimes attributed to him, though this is unlikely. European craftsman (woodworkers) were the first known pencil manufacturers, and it wasn't until the late 1700's that manufacturing techniques similar to those practiced today were developed.
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The picture at left illustrates the steps involved in the manufacture of a wood pencil.It starts with a block of cedar (1) which is then cut into slats (2). The slats are then stained (3) and grooves are cut into one surface (4).Prepared leads are placed into the grooves (5) and a second slat is placed on top and bonded with the first (6).This 'pencil sandwich' is then passed through a milling process (7) to separate the individual pencils (8).
Nicolas-Jacques Conté (4 August 1755 – 6 December 1805) was a Frenchpainter, balloonist, armyofficer, and inventor of the modern pencil.
He was born at Saint-Céneri-près-Sées (now Aunou-sur-Orne) in Normandy, and distinguished himself for his mechanical genius which was of great avail to the French army in Egypt. Napoleon called him “a universal man with taste, understanding and genius capable of creating the arts of France in the middle of the Arabian Desert.”
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