Who devised the `ball-point’ pen?
The first BALL-POINT PEN for writing on paper was devised in 1938 by a Hungarian hypnotist, sculptor and journalist, Lasalo Biro, who at this time happened to be editing a Government-sponsored cultural magazine in Budapest. During the course of a visit to the printers of the magazine, Biro was struck by the advantage of a quick-drying ink for use in pens, and constructed the prototype ball-point to this end. Shortly afterwards he escaped from Hungary to Paris in the, face of the encroaching Nazi menace and from thence to Argentina in 1940. Here he continued to work on his idea for a pen that would not blot and patented in on 10 June 1943. About the same time, he met a visiting Englishman Henry Martin, who had arrived in Buenos Aires on a mission for the British Government. Martin was impressed with the invention, which he saw as an answer to the problem experienced by air crews having to make navigational calculations at high altitudes. Biro’s ball-point, he found, was in no way affected by changes of air pressure or atmosphere. Accordingly, he acquired the British rights, and in 1944 began producing ball-points for the RAF in a disused aircraft hangar bear Reading. His staff of 17 girls turned out 3,000 finished pens in the first year.
The first commercially produced ball-point on regular sale was produced under the Biro patents by the Eterpen Co. of Buenos Aires early- in 1945 and marketed at the equivalent of £ 27. Biro had been imprudent enough not to patent his pen in the USA, and an American businessman lost on time in doing so.
Advertised as the ‘first pen that writes underwater’, the American version won an immediate response when it went on sale, priced $ 12.50, at Gimbel’s of New York on 29 October, 1945. It was reported that nearly 10,000 had been sold before closing time. By 1949, sales of ball-points had already outstripped fountain pens.
The first successful ‘throw-away’ ball-point was manufactured in France by Baron Bic in 1953 and introduced into Britain as the Bic Crystal in June 1958. Priced at 1 s, sales during 1959 totaled 53 million, on approximately one to every man, woman and child in the country.