László Bíró invented ballpoint pen in 1938. Bíró got the creative idea of making such a pen during the visit to a printing press. In the decade of 1930 fountain pen was the only instrument available for permanent writing. But the ink of fountain pen being easily soluble in water and even a drop of water or sweaty hand meant a constant threat of smearing the ink on the paper. Further, it also took some time to dry on smooth paper whereas the ink used in printing press having oil base instead of water base dried quickly. Even large smears of printing ink on the newsprint dried within no time, noted observant Bíró and there was not a question of waterproof printing ink spreading on the paper at all. Was it possible to use such ink in a pen for writing? As the principle of capillary action would not work in the case of thick oily printing ink, it was unusable in fountain pen. Therefore, an altogether different kind of pen was required.
Born on September 29, 1899 in Hungary, much accomplished László Bíró was a sculptor-cum-artist-cum-hypnotist-cum-journalist. He decided to use tiny metallic ball instead of the nib as a point to write with the oil based ink. He fixed metallic ball at one end of a hollow metallic tube of identical diameter and filled the tube with oily printing ink. As the friction with paper during the course of writing went on rotating the ball within the hollow end of the tube, the ball which was constantly drenched in the ink went on spreading it on the paper in the form of writing. It was obvious that this pen employing a tiny ball as the writing point instead of the usual nib was going to be known as ballpoint pen.
Ballpoint pen (Wikipedia)
László Bíró (Wikipedia)