Nicolas-Jacques Conte, French inventor

Nicolas-Jacques Conte, French inventor

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Caption: Nicolas-Jacques Conte (1755-1805), French painter, balloonist, army officer and inventor of the lead pencil. Conte's successful early painting career allowed him to pursue his scientific interests. His most famous invention came about in 1795 when France was deprived of graphite during the war with England. Conte mixed graphite with clay, and wedged the material between two half-cylinders of wood to create the modern pencil. He was also involved in experiments with military reconnaissance balloons. He invented a barometer for measuring altitude, and various other instruments and tools during an expedition to Egypt. Engraved by Nicolas Delaunay between 1780 and 1800.

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