Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Frederick. Frederick Wonders, “Who invented paper ?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Frederick!

What comes to mind when you think of technology? Many kids might picture flying cars or space shuttles. Others might think of today’s smart devices. It’s easy to think technology only includes advanced electronic devices.

But technology is much more than that. It includes any object created to solve a problem. Many simple tools are examples of technology. Did you know that the wheel is technology? How about pencils? Scissors? Even paper is an example of technology! 

Wait. What problem did paper solve? Well, human beings were writing for thousands of years before paper existed. Early writers used many materials. Many of these made writing difficult. Some people carved words on clay or stone tablets. Others wrote on silk, which was very costly. Many people also used papyrus, which was made from the stems of the papyrus plant.

In China, ancient people wrote on bamboo. They used long bamboo strips. Then, they tied the strips together to make books. This process was very long. It made heavy books that were difficult to carry. 

This was a problem. In 105 CE, a man named Cai Lun came up with a solution. He was a Chinese court official who often used bamboo for writing and reading. He knew how inconvenient it was and set out to find a better way. Cai had the idea to mix tree bark, hemp, fishing net, and cloth. The result was a lighter material that was easy to write on. Cai Lun had invented paper.

Cai Lun brought his invention to the Chinese emperor. Cai and his apprentice, Zuo Bo, improved his paper-making process. Soon, the use of paper spread throughout China.

Eventually, paper also spread to central Asia and the Middle East in the 7th Century. Later, it made it to Europe, though it’s unclear how. Middle Eastern traders may have brought it there. Another theory is that Marco Polo brought paper from China.

Paper has changed a lot since 105 CE. Today, paper is made almost entirely from trees. It comes in many forms and colors, and it serves a number of purposes.

Can you imagine a world without paper? What would you write on at school? There would be far fewer books, and almost certainly no newspapers. What would people draw and color on? Paper is one technology that certainly improved many parts of life!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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