Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No 2...Pencils--Nicolas-Jacques Conté

Nicolas-Jacques Conté
August 4th, 1755 to December 6th, 1805

Nicolas-Jacques Conté was a "French inventor who devised a method of manufacturing pencil leads by mixing a finely powdered graphite with finely ground clay particles, baked, and used encased in wood. His innovation was prompted when imported plumbago supplies were disrupted by war. He was the first to use graphite - and that is still used as the basis for making pencil leads today. Using different ratios of clay to graphite varies the hardness of the pencil lead. He was commissioned by Napoleon as chief of the balloon corps in Egypt, where he invented ways to improvise tools and machines necessary to provide bread, cloth, munitions, surgical instruments and engineers' tools. As a youth, he had worked as a portrait painter. He lost his left eye in a chemistry laboratory accident."

Nicolas-Jacques Conté [Wikipedia]

A huge pencil website...

Bob Truby's Band Name Pencils

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance


Henry Petroski

ISBN-10: 0679734155
ISBN-13: 978-0679734154


From Professor Bill Ashworth Jr. [University of Missouri, Kansas City]...

Nicolas-Jacques Conté, a French inventor and balloonist, was born Aug. 4, 1755. Conté was a member of the scientific corps of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, 1798-1801. He was a skilled machinist, and his first task was to replace all the measuring equipment that was lost when the flagship of the invasion fleet sank on arrival. After that, he gathered information on the crafts of Egypt, visiting the shops of the potters, glass-blowers, and blacksmiths, and making finished drawings of their tools and methods, all of which would be published in the great Description de l'Egypte (1809-1828). But perhaps his greatest contribution was the invention of an engraving machine. When it came time to publish the results of the expedition, the editors were faced with the task of engraving hundreds of extremely large plates, with much of the space filled with the Egyptian sky, which had to be shaded in. Previously the shading would have been engraved by hand and would have taken thousands of man-hours. Conté's machine could do all this laborous shading mechanically, and in a fraction of the time. It is safe to say that, without it, those grand plates of the Pyramids and the temple at Karnak would have been a lot longer emerging from the press. Conté lost an eye in an early explosion, and in the famous group portrait of the scientists of the Institute of Egypt, Conté is easy to spot, with his rakish eye patch, standing just behind Napoleon ( ).

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