While akin to the common question: What came first: the chicken or the egg? The question of what came first between the pencil and the pen is not so much a philosophical physiological evolutionary one, rather it is a purely historical one. But without the historical data to hand, most would be stumped to come up with an assertive answer. The answer is similar to that of another common question: which came first, the lighter or matches? And like this question most give the wrong answer in reply.
Despite seeming like a more modern piece of technology the lighter was in fact created before matches, and so you can deduce that it was the pen that was indeed invented before the pencil.
Since cavemen started doodling buffalo on the walls of their caves with mud and their fingers, man has been destined to invent the pen. As long ago as 4000BC people started using crude pens made from straws or feathers dipped in liquid and were in use, in some shape or form, right up until the 1800’s when the first steel tipped pens and fountain pens were invented. The modern biro was invented by Mr Bíró from Hungary 1938.
It was the ancient Greeks and Romans who first used lead to mark lines for people to write on with pens and the middles ages (1500’s) saw people use lead or silver sticks to make markings on papyrus (ancient version of paper). But it was the discovery of graphite in the late 1700’s that introduced the pencil as we know it. Of course it was a chemist, a Frenchman named Conte, who came up with the right mixture of graphite and clay that was just right for writing and it was an American named William Monroe, a cabinet maker in the 1800’s, who used his woodwork skills to invent a way to cut wood accurately enough to create something very close to the modern pencil.
You would think that with the emergence of computers and computer accessories such as the mouse, email and things like touch screen technology that it would only be a matter of time before pens and pencils become obsolete. After all, a vast amount of ink these days goes into inkjet cartridges for printers.
But while one half of society is forging ahead with their digital age, the other half are perfectly happy using pens, pencils and paper for all their communications. Could they even be the greatest invention ever? Where would we be without them?