Laszlo Josef Biro
Born September 29, 1899 – October 24, 1985
Patent #: 2,390,636
Laszlo Biro invented the modern ballpoint pen.
Needing a way to combine the qualities of both inks for a pen, Biro worked
to perfect the design. It consisted of a ball that freely rotated in a
socket. Moving the pen across the page made the ball rotate, where it picked
up a thick ink from a reservoir and applied it to the page. The Biro pen was
the first successful ballpoint writing instrument.
His pen came to the attention of a British clerk who thought the pen would
be useful to airplane navigators because it was not dependent on pressure
for ink distribution, working well at high altitudes. The British government
bought Biro's patent and had the pens made for the Royal Air Force. From
this, Biro’s pen quickly gained commercial success.
A native of Budapest, Hungary, Laszlo was working as a journalist when
he noticed a fundamental difference between two types of ink. Ink for
fountain pens was easy to smudge because it needed time to dry, yet ink
used in newspaper printing presses dried much faster, leaving dry paper
with a smudge-free product. He tried using the newspaper printing ink in
a fountain pen but found it was too thick to flow through the tip.