Laszlo Biro was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1899. He is most famous for lending his name to the pen he invented, but he also is credited for designing a reliable automatic gearbox, which he sold to the Ford Motor Company. Unfortunately for him, this commercial success wasn't a theme throughout his life, as he failed to capitalise on the good ideas he and his brother, George, conceived.
Throughout the early 20th century, Biro was working as a journalist at the Hungarian newspaper Elotte. It was during his time here that he was impressed by the ink used in the newspaper printers; it was extremely quick-drying and hardly smudged at all. At the time, fountain pens were the best writing instrument available, but they were messy and inconvenient, and blotting paper had to be used to ensure that the India ink they used wasn't unwittingly smeared across the page. Biro was inspired to create a pen with thicker, quick-drying ink that would remedy all of these problems. He enlisted the help of his brother, George, who was a chemist, to try and find a ink that would work in such a pen, and in 1938, the two brothers took out their first ball-point pen patent.
As the name suggests, the pen had a small ball in the nib which acted as a cap, to prevent the internal reservoir from drying, and also regulated the flow of ink onto the paper. Unknown to Biro, a similar idea had been patented 50 years earlier, by John J. Loud, although it had since faded into obscurity. However, Biro had an advantage over Loud; the Second World War. The Royal Air Force were having problems with fountain pens leaking at high altitude, and were desperately looking for a solution. The Biro brothers had emigrated to Argentinia to avoid the war, and were trying to start production of their idea when the British Government approached them to ask if they could buy licensing rights for the new pen. The brothers agreed, and the pen became a high profile success, due to no doubt to the all-pervading propaganda of the time.
The publicity this brought to the pen attracted others interested in marketing the product. In May 1945, Eversharp, in conjunction with Eberhard-Faber, acquired the exclusive rights to Biro Pens. They renamed the pen Eversharp CA (standing for capillary action), and started agressively marketing it all over Argentina.
From this point, the meteoric rise of ball-point pens continued, driven by price battles lasting decades. Although his name is synonomous with the pens, Biro no longer had any interests in the invention, and companies such as Parker, PaperMate and BIC have made the real profits.
Laszlo Biro died in Argentina in 1985