László Bíró was the inventor of the ball point pen. He was granted a patent for the first successful ballpoint pen on June 10th 1943. Bíró was a journalist and other than the pencil the predominant writing instrument at the time was the fountain pen which had been designed by L.E. Waterman in 1884.
Biro experimented with the ink used by printers but found it would not flow properly in the fountain pen. His brother György who was a chemist, improved the viscosity of printing ink. This, together with a new tip which consisted of a tiny ball bearing. As the ball bearing rolled in a socket it picked up ink from a cartridge enabling the user to write smudge free.
Biro first presented his ball point pen at the Budapest International Fair in 1931 and filed for patent in 1938. However the pen was still not working successfully. The ball bearing in the tip sometimes failed to turn consistently and the ink sometimes still dried out too quickly.
The outbreak of World War II forced the Biro brothers, who were of the Jewish religion, to leave Hungary. They moved to Argentina where they continued to improve their invention until it was ready for production. They filed for a patent and established a company called the Bíró Pens of Argentina in 1943.
The British Government bought 30,000 of the biros for the Royal Air Force in 1944. It was found that the biro worked much better than a fountain pen at high altitude. Shortly after the end of World War II French manufacturer Marcel Bich bought the patent for the pen from Bíró. Marketed under the slogan ‘write first time, every time’ the pen soon became the main product of the Bic Company. Since production began in 1950 over 100 billion Bic pens have been sold.
László József Bíró, inventor of the ball point pen, was born in Budapest, Hungary in the year 1899 On This Day.