While his name may not be that familiar to you, chances are you use his invention at least once every day. Ladislao Jose Biro is the man responsible for inventing the ballpoint pen, which is now used by millions of people all throughout the world.
Described as “a simple but remarkable invention” by the Wall Street Journal, the ballpoint pen was created after Biro, a Jewish-Hungarian journalist and artist, noticed the speed at which newspapers were printed and how quickly the ink dried.
According to the Journal however, it was an invention that was “convulsed by death and destruction”, as Biro experimented with his concept during the outbreak of WWII in Europe while he was forced to flee from Nazi forces.
Today, September 29th, Google Doodle honors the inventor on what would have been his 117th birthday with an interactive image that shows the old school cursive handwriting (that kids today will probably not even learn in schools) and after you click on the image you will get an animated display of how the ballpoint pen actually works, which is actually pretty interesting.
So here are five interesting facts that you may not know about this inventor in honor of his birthday.
The Ballpoint Pen Was Inspired by The Newspaper Printing Press
Biro was born in 1899 and became the editor of a newspaper in Budapest in his adult life. He soon became aware of how efficiently newspapers were printed and fast the ink would dry in comparison to the then common fountain pen. Frustrated by the fountain’s pen smudged and blotty results, and the inability to get more viscous fast-drying ink to pour through the nib, Biro worked with his brother, Gyorgy, who was a chemist, to create a new type of pen which rolled ink onto paper in a similar fashion to a newspaper roller.
The end result was a ball that turned in a socket, which picked up a think, fast-drying film of ink from a cartridge and transferred it onto paper. Giving his name to the invention, Biro presented the first prototype of the ballpoint pen at the Budapest International Fair in 1931, later patenting it in 1938.
Biro was Forced to Flee Nazi Forces as he Experimented with his Invention
Biro was born into a Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary and was forced to flee the country just two years after he patented his invention when the Nazi forces occupied his home country in 1940. Gyorgy Moldova’s book Ballpoint, chronicled the life of Brio, saying “We see Biro refining the pen and experimenting with recipes for the ink paste essential to his concept while fleeing dangers that seemed to chase him across Europe as war brewed and then broke out.”
After he escaped Hungary, Brio then travelled to Aregentina where he found support to turn the Biro pen into a commercial product.
World War II Saw the First Major Buyers for the Pen
The Royal Air Force became the first major buyers of the ballpoint pen with the organization ordering 30,000 of the devices throughout the course of the war. The pen was popular with pilots because it allowed them to operate at high altitudes, unlike fountain pens. Which made it much easier to keep track of travel logs or important notes while they were up in the air.
Biro’s Birthday is celebrated on Inventor’s Day
In Argentina, where Biro began mass producing his ballpoint pens, his birthday which is on September 29th, is celebrated as Inventor’s Day. His great contribution to the world has made life easier for people who work in all types of industries and has made it faster for us to quickly write down a quick note or shopping list without wasting time waiting for the ink to dry.
Biros are the most popular pens in the world
You may think that this isn’t true since many people have never heard of a Biro pen. But In 1945, Marcel Bich bought the patent for Biro’s pens, which quickly turned into the Bic company’s main product.
So now you know why Biros are considered to be the most popular pens, because they are actually Bic pens which are seen everywhere in the world. In fact, just a few years ago, many people referred to Bic pens as Biros.
The Bic Cristal biro with it’s clear barrel style is now the world’s most popular pen and Biro’s name remains synonymous with his invention in many countries all throughout Europe.