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Archive for July 20th, 2013

Lázlo Biró (1899-1985)

Necessity is the mother of invention. As an editor of a small newspaper(’35) he was frustrated by the amount of ink smudges. Besides, the sharp tip of his fountain pen scratched through the paper. Determined to invent a better pen, Laszlo and his brother Georg set off to invent a new and better pen. Is it Nature cutting chance cards from the deck for one who is seized of a need? One will never know but on a vacation at the seashore, the brothers came upon Augustine Justo the president of Argentina, who engineered their future in his country. When World War II broke out in Europe, the Biro brothers fled to Argentina, stopping in Paris along the way to patent their pen(’38).

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Once in Argentina, the Biros found several investors willing to finance their invention, and in 1943 they had set up a new manufacturing factory. Unfortunately, the pens were a failure. So they had to go past the conventional wisdom of ink flowing by gravity. The Biro brothers returned to their factory and made a new design, which depended on “capillary action rather than gravity to fall to the rolling ball. The ‘ball’ at the end of the pen acted like a metal sponge, and with this improvement ink could flow more smoothly to the ball. Still it was still not a success, so the men ran out of business.

Unknown to Biro, a similar idea had been patented fifty years earlier, by John Loud, although it had faded into unimportance. However, Laszlo had an advantage over Loud; World War II. The Royal Air Force was having problems with fountain pens leaking at high altitude, and was trying to look for a solution. As Laszlo and Georg had immigrated to Argentina to avoid the war, they were trying to start a production of their idea when the British Government approached them to ask if they could buy licensing rights for the new pen. They agreed, and the pen became a high success, no doubt due to the all- permeating publicity of the time.

The ensuing publicity brought others interested in marketing the product. In May 1945, Eversharp, in conjunction with Eberhard Faber, bought the exclusive rights to the Biro Pens. They renamed the pen Eversharp CA, and started aggressively marketing all over Argentina.

From this point on began the meteoritic rise of ballpoint pen.

Ack: http://richerich.edublogs.org)

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