The Ballpoint Pen – Ladislao José Biró
It might be a stretch to call the ballpoint pen an Argentine invention but its creator – Hungarian-born journalist painter and inventor Biró László József (or Ladislao José Biró as he later came to be known) – did spend half his life living in Argentina and is an adopted son. Born in 1899 in Budapest, he relocated across the Atlantic in 1943 just in time to make it big with his invention.
Biró first patented the ballpoint in Hungary after he’d become increasingly frustrated with the inefficiency of fountain pens whose ink dried slowly and needed to be refilled frequently. Inspired by the printing presses in newspapers, he set about designing a pen that could administer ink from a plastic tube with the aid of a small ball. The first attempts failed due to the viscosity of normal ink but with the help of his chemist brother, he found a consistency that worked.
On arrival in his new homeland, he commercialised his invention, setting up the company Biro Meyne Biro and the rest is non-leaking, fast-drying, smooth-applying history. The invention was immediately popular with the British Royal Air Force before going on to global domination.
Needless to say, the successful entrepreneur was accepted into the bosom of Argentine society and, although the ballpoint isn’t strictly a local invention, it is considered one.
‘Inventors Day’ is celebrated every year in Argentina on Biró’s birthday: the 29th of September. His daughter, Mariana, remembers that whenever he was asked what his best invention was, he would always say, “the next one”.