CONTE

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CONTE, Nicolas Jacques, a painter and chemist, but particularly distinguished for the ingenuity of his mechanical contrivances, was born at St. Ceneri, near Seez (department of Orne), in 1755, and died in 1805. His mechanical genius was displayed, at the age of 12 years, by the construction of a violin (which was used at several concerts), with no other instrument than a knife. At the age of 18, without having received any instructions, he executed several paintings for the hospital of Seez. This success did not prevent him from the cultivation of the physical and mathematical sciences. He went to Paris, and invented a hydraulic machine, which was mentioned with approbation by the academy of sciences. In 1793, he was appointed one of the committee for making experiments in regard to the decomposition of water by iron, instead of sulphuric acid; and his activity and skill on this commission occasioned nis appointment of director of the aerostatic school at Meudon. Contf sug42* gested the idea of establishing a place of deposit for useful machines, tools, &c, in consequence of which the conservatory was instituted. He afterwards introduced the manufacture of an excellent kind of crayons into France, and established a great manufactory, which still supplies all France with them. He was appointed, in 1798, to accompany the French expedition to Egypt, and his services were of the greatest value. He constructed a furnace on the Pharos, near Alexandria, in the space of two days, for redhot balls, with, which the English were repelled, and thus time was given for fortifying that place. The machines and instruments of the army having fallen into the hands of the Arabs, Conte was obliged to furnish every thing, even the tools: he constructed windmills, machines for the mint at Cairo, for an Oriental printing establishment, for the fabrication of gunpowder, &c, and cannon founderies; manufactured steel, paper, swords for the soldiers, utensils for the hospitals, instruments for the engineers, telescopes for the astronomers, microscopes for the naturalists, drums, trumpets, in short, every thing necessary for such a military and scientific expedition in such a country as Egypt. On his return to France, he was appointed to superintend the execution of the great work on Egypt, and invented a graving machine, which, by performing certain parts of the labor, spared the artist much time and trouble. The death of his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, threw him into a lingering disease, and he survived her but a short time. Conte was a member of the legion of honor. His simplicity, integrity, courage, disinterestedness and warmth of affection rendered him no less amiable and estimable in private life, than his science and ingenuity made him valuable to the nation.