Brockedon's metal pill die with three boxes of pills, 1843.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Pills have been used as a means of delivering a measured dose of a medicine since approximtely 1500 BC. William Brockedon invented this machine for producing pills in 1843. Powder was poured into a tube, and then compresed with a mallet until solid. It was initially designed by Brockedon, a keen artist, to produce superior quality, les friable graphite pencil leads. A drugs manufacturer saw another potential use for the invention, however, and hired Brockedon, who was granted a patent for 'Shaping Pills, Lozenges and Black Lead by Presure in Dies.' Prior to this, techniques of making pills required moisture to bind the ingredients together, which could render the medicinal components ineffective.