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|NICOLAS-JACQUES CONTÉ 1755 – 1805 FRANCE|
V.Ryan © 2018
|Everyone owes a debt of gratitude to Nicolas-Jacques Conté, the creator of the first recognisable ‘pencil’. Pencils have made it possible for anyone to write, draw, sketch, present ideas, record facts and fiction and much more.
He was passionate about the mechanical arts (engineering) and science. He was interested in gas balloons and formed the first air bourne battalion. It was during this era that he lost an eye, during an experiment with gas. He was an innovative engineer and also an accomplished artist.
In the Sixteen Hundreds, an early form of pencil was mass produced in Nuremburg. However, this type had a tendency to break easily and left a ‘stain’ on the writers hand. Britain, the only supplier of pure graphite, was blockading French ports and so a alternative to pure graphite was also needed. Conte was asked to design a pencil, that would replace foreign imports and did not depend on British pure graphite.
He developed a technique of mixing graphite with clay, forming the compound into rods, followed by firing in a kiln. The rods were then encased between two wooden halves, producing what we would consider to be the first modern pencil.
His design of the humble pencil, has seen little change over the centuries and has help educate millions of people around the world.
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