Leonardo da Vinci is often credited—for once, incorrectly—with inventing scissors. The real inventors were the ancient Egyptians, sometime around 1500 B.C. The earliest known scissors were bronze spring cutting devices—a C-shaped handle with two blades on either end. When the ends were squeezed together, the blades cut whatever was placed between them. That design spread through other areas of the world, including Europe and Asia, and remained the most popular form of scissors design until the Middle Ages—despite the fact that pivot-point scissors, in which two blades with handles are joined by a rivet, were invented in Rome in the first century A.D.
It took many more centuries before scissors of either type were mass-produced. England’s William Whiteley & Sons began manufacturing spring scissors in 1760. A year later another Englishman, Robert Hinchliffe of Sheffield, is credited with popularising the pivot-point style, mass-producing hand-forged steel scissors, often with ornate handles. He proudly proclaimed himself a scissors maker by mounting a sign on his shop. In 1840 Queen Victoria awarded Thomas Wilkinson & Son the prestigious title of “Manufacturers of Scissors in Ordinary,” and their products were installed at Windsor Castle for the use of the queen and her husband, Prince Albert, whom she married that year.
Scissors, now common household tools, have made some unusual long-distance journeys. Beginning in the 1960s, each U.S. astronaut was given a personal pair to open food packets in space.