Who Invented the Pencil and When?

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Pencils were invented in 1795 by a French scientist named Nicolas-Jacques Conte. He used a mixture of graphite, clay and water baked in a kiln to create the “lead” of the pencil. He then housed this mixture in a wooden frame for writing.

Conte created several different kinds of pencils depending on their intended use. He made round pencils for artists who would be drawing for long periods of time and needed comfort. He made square or polygonal pencils for draftsmen or carpenters so that the pencils would not roll away.

Despite the fact that the center of a pencil has long been referred to as “lead,” pencils were never made of lead. They have always been composed of graphite. The misnomer came about when graphite was first discovered in the 15th century and mistaken for a form of lead.