The first patent for a ballpoint pen[6] was issued on 30 October 1888, to John J. Loud,[7] a leather tanner, who was attempting to make a writing instrument that would be able to write on his leather products, which then-common fountain pens could not. Loud’s pen had a small rotating steel ball, held in place by a socket. Although it could be used to mark rough surfaces such as leather, as Loud intended, it proved to be too coarse for letter-writing. With no commercial viability, its potential went unexploited[1] and the patent eventually lapsed.[8] The manufacture of economical, reliable ballpoint pens as we know them arose from experimentation, modern chemistry, and precision manufacturing capabilities of the early 20th century.[3] Patents filed worldwide during early development are testaments to failed attempts at making the pens commercially viable and widely available.[9] Early ballpoints did not deliver the ink evenly; overflow and clogging were among the obstacles inventors faced toward developing reliable ballpoint pens.[4] If the ball socket were too tight, or the ink too thick, it would not reach the paper. If the socket were too loose, or the ink too thin, the pen would leak or the ink would smear.[4] Ink reservoirs pressurized by piston, spring, capillary action, and gravity would all serve as solutions to ink-delivery and flow problems.[10][11]

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