László Bíró – Inventor of Modern Ballpoint Pen

Bíró László József (1899 - 1985) was the inventor of the ballpoint pen as we know it today. Bíró László was born in Budapest, Hungary. He worked as an editor in the Hungarian newspaper Hongrie-Magyarország-Hungary.

While writing, he had problems with ink from fountain pens because it dried slowly and often smudged. He also noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing presses dried quickly and didn’t smudge. He tried filling printing ink in a fountain pen to use for writing, but the ink was too dense, and it would clog the pen. So the ink was good, but the pen had to change. The idea for a pen came from a 40-year-old invention of John J. Loud, an inventor from Weymouth, Massachusetts. Loud patented a pen with a relatively large metal ball at the point intended for use on surfaces that classical dip pens could not be used, especially leather. This pen was not suitable for writing, had no commercial value, and the patent lapsed in time.

The general idea was used by Bíró László and his brother György who was a chemist. They experimented together and tried to make a new type of pen. They combined a new type of viscous ink and a ball-socket mechanism with a smaller ball, this time, which prevented ink from drying inside the pen and controlled the flow of ink. Ball was placed in a socket at the tip of the pen, but it could rotate freely, collect ink from the reservoir and leave a mark on the surface across which it was dragged. They presented their pen at the Budapest International Fair in 1931 and patented it in 1938. In 1941 the Bíró brothers (being Jewish at the beginning of the Second World War) and a friend, Juan Jorge Meyne, fled to Argentina. They formed Bíró Pens of Argentina there and filed a new patent in 1943. They sold their pen in Argentina under the name Birome (which comes from Bíró and Meyne), and even today, ballpoint pens are known in Argentina as Birome.

Picture Of Laszlo Biro 1978

During the Second World War, the United Kingdom likened the manufacture of Biro ballpoint pens for use in airplanes. Royal Air Force aircrew used them because they don’t leak at high altitudes and low pressures like fountain pens.

Marcel Bich, the manufacturer from France, bought the patent from Bíró for the ballpoint pen in 1950. It soon became the main product of his Bic Company. Bíró László died in Buenos Aires in 1985, and Argentina celebrates Inventors' Day on his birthday, 29 September.

Today many manufacturers make ballpoint pens that work on the same principle invented by Bíró. The ballpoint pen is even called “biro” in many countries like UK, Ireland, Australia, and Italy in a generic trademark. Ballpoint pens generally replace fountain pens because they are easier to use, don’t leak, and don’t demand special maintenance. They can be made from cheap materials and sold for a low price, making them available to everyone.

Picture Of Laszlo Biro 1978
Picture Of Laszlo Biro 1978