A Tale of Genius and Grit, Perilous Times, and the Invention That Changed the Way We Write
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
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The triumphs and the trials of the men who invented the modern ballpoint pen as they battled corporate greed, dark eras--and each other.
László Bíró's last name is, in much of the world, a synonym for his revolutionary writing tool. But few people know that Bíró began his career in interwar Budapest as a journalist frustrated with spotty ink; that he escaped fascism by fleeing to Paris and, finally, to Buenos Aires; that a fellow Hungarian, Andor Goy, also played a vital role in the pen's development--and that, in a tragic twist of shared fate, business pressures and politics ultimately deprived both men of their rights to the ballpoint pen. Taking us from Hitler's Europe in 1938, to Argentina, where Bíró settled, and to Communist-era Hungary, where Goy lived out his life, Ballpoint is a painstakingly researched, absorbing narrative that reads simultaneously like a work of history and a novel.
"Mr. Moldova tells this tale of ingenuity and disappointed hopes with considerable verve; his book is a page-turner." -- The Wall Street Journal
"Fascinating. . . . [Ballpoint] cleverly traces the squiggly road of two men . . . who struggled, at first as partners and later as rivals, to invent, manufacture and profit from this most quotidian of writing instruments. . . . There's a deliciously voyeuristic feel to this fast-paced . . . work, as if you're eavesdropping on a family conversation."
--Winnipeg Free Press
"In terms of history-making inventions, the ballpoint pen is no electric light bulb, but its story is far wilder."
"Ballpoint reads like a fast-paced mystery. Although we know from the start that its technological protagonist--the ballpoint pen--will triumph, we find ourselves repeatedly surprised by the story's unfolding episodes of international intrigue, financial deception, and legal shenanigans."
--Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil and The Essential Engineer
"Part biography, part historical novel, this fascinating book tells the remarkable story of László Bíró and Andor Goy, the two Hungarians who made the first workable ballpoint pen and who, despite the resounding success of their product, earned almost nothing from it."
--John Emsley, author of Molecules of Murder and The Elements of Murder
"The tale of László Bíró and Andor Goy . . . is a wonderful illustration of the role that human passions, foibles, and genius play in shaping the world around us."
--Robert Friedel, author of Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty