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Nicolas-Jacques Conté was a French painter, balloonist, army officer, and inventor of the modern pencil.

He 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.”

One of his early interests while still at Sées was in the newly developing science of aeronautics. He made at least one hot air balloon which he flew in the public square. He contributed to the improvement of the production of hydrogen gas, as well as the treatment of the gas bag of the balloon itself.

Conté invented the modern pencil lead at the request of Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot. The French Republic was at that time under economic blockade and unable to import graphite from Great Britain, the main source of the material. Carnot asked Conté to create a pencil that did not rely on foreign imports. After several days of research, Conté had the idea of mixing powdered graphite with clay and pressing the material between two half-cylinders of wood. Thus was formed the modern pencil. Conté received a patent for the invention in 1795, and formed la Société Conté to make them. He also invented the conté crayon named after him, a hard pastel stick used by artists....
 
 
Nicolas-Jacques Conté was a French painter, balloonist, army officer, and inventor of the modern pencil.

He 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.”

One of his early interests while still at Sées was in the newly developing science of aeronautics. He made at least one hot air balloon which he flew in the public square. He contributed to the improvement of the production of hydrogen gas, as well as the treatment of the gas bag of the balloon itself.

Conté invented the modern pencil lead at the request of Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot. The French Republic was at that time under economic blockade and unable to import graphite from Great Britain, the main source of the material. Carnot asked Conté to create a pencil that did not rely on foreign imports. After several days of research, Conté had the idea of mixing powdered graphite with clay and pressing the material between two half-cylinders of wood. Thus was formed the modern pencil. Conté received a patent for the invention in 1795, and formed la Société Conté to make them. He also invented the conté crayon named after him, a hard pastel stick used by artists....

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