Slavoljub Eduard Penkala

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Slavoljub Eduard Penkala

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala (born April 20, 1871 in Liptovský Mikuláš , † February 5, 1922 in Zagreb , Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes ) was an engineer and inventor.

Eduard Penkala was a tireless tinkerer who was constantly looking for new solutions or striving to improve what already existed. He designed or improved numerous other products and registered a total of 80 patents . These range from detergents and toothbrushes to pull brakes. However, his most famous inventions include versions of the mechanical pen and a solid ink fountain pen , a forerunner of the ballpoint pen.


Penkala's father came from Poland , his mother from a Dutch family.

Mechanical pen

Today's life would be inconceivable without the ballpoint pen . However, this was gradually developed until it conquered the world (cf. László József Bíró ). The predecessor of the ballpoint pen was the graphite mechanical pencil.

Eduard Penkala, who significantly developed the mechanical pen, was born in what is now Slovakia . He completed his studies in chemistry in Dresden in 1898 . In 1900 he moved to Zagreb , Croatia with his wife . In 1904 he was appointed royal Austro-Hungarian measurement controller . As a sign of turning to his Slavic roots, he took the name Slavoljub.


He had an innate ingenuity from childhood. As a little boy he thought about why pencils have to be sharpened again and again. He playfully dismantled the "classic" pencils, removed the lead and inserted his specially created leads, which were later pushed in by a pressure device.

Penkala also took apart clocks because he was interested in how the tooth mechanism worked. To the amazement of everyone in the house, he put the clocks back together carefully and properly. He later became a great inventor who was driven by his ingenuity. His wife would often find him early in the morning, still trying hard to find a solution to a problem. It's important to remember that the graphite pencil hasn't changed in over a century.

Best seller

Logo of the Penkala products

Penkala initially registered his invention on January 24, 1906 with the Royal Hungarian Patent Office in Budapest under patent number 36,946. He then sent sample copies to some major cities across Europe, with great success. More than 100,000 copies were ordered from everywhere in no time at all. Due to the large number of orders, he opened a workshop on today's Prager Strasse (Praška ulica) in Zagreb.

Even the marketing idea came from Penkala himself. The symbol of the original Penkala fountain pen still represents a laughing man's head with a giant ear. Since Penkala had no capital, he looked for financiers. In 1911, because he could no longer get by on his own, he signed a rather bad contract with two company owners from Zagreb, the Moster brothers . The filling pencil became a big seller worldwide. The Zagreb factory Penkala-Moster still exists today under the name “ Toz-Penkala ”.

A few years later, Penkala invented the solid ink fountain pen by looking to improve on the existing liquid ink fountain pen. Later, in his laboratory in Tuškanac, he also invented the dry ink for the chemical filler pencil and then also the holder ( clip ) for the body of the filler pencil or the ink pen. The company later moved to Berlin . Later on, companies were formed all over the world, including America.

Penkala did not get rich through his invention - a common fate of inventors. His name was increasingly forgotten.

Versatile inventor

Slavoljub Penkala registered a total of around 80 patents. In addition to the ink fountain pen with solid ink, the snap , the hot water bottle , the first rotating toothbrush , brakes for train wagons, the rail connections, the anodic batteries, xiolite preparations against parasites, the manometer , the plastic ebonite mass for pressing gramophone records , special microphones and listening devices he created calculations and sketches for helicopters and sketches about the first Hovercraft hovercraft , accounting for only a small part of its activities.

It should also be mentioned that with an invention he significantly improved the sound reproduction on records . He aroused the interest of the London company Edison Bell , which invited him to London . There he signed a contract with the company that changed its name to Edison-Bell-Penkala , which was a very significant recognition.

Finally, it should be mentioned that he almost alone designed the first European two-seater in 1909 , just a few years after the Wright brothers in America in 1903 fulfilled mankind's eternal dream of flying. Even if there was hardly a day on which Penkala did not think of something new, the idea of designing an aircraft in the then state and in the pioneering age of aviation at the beginning of the 20th century was not only fascinating, but also the culmination of his inventive achievements.

Penkala's thirst for knowledge was not exhausted by the design of this aircraft alone. He threw himself on further exploration of the aircraft and on the principle of operation of the helicopter. This was followed by the first public flight for numerous citizens of the city of Zagreb.

The official agencies of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which supposedly showed their interest, did not provide any financial support for the further development of this project. At that time, Zagreb did not have a significant technical tradition, which is why no one gave this event greater importance.

Totally unexpected and surprising died Penkala early 1922 in his 51st year of life at a pneumonia . After his death he was buried in the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb .


Some of the revolutionary inventions made by engineer Slavoljub Penkala are:

  • the mechanical pen (Budapest, 1906, Pat. Nos. 36946 and 38353 / England, 1906, Pat. Nos. 3690/1906 and 183242)
  • the fountain pen with solid ink (1907, 193717 DRP)
  • Holder for fountain pens and pencils, so-called " Knips "
  • the bottle warmer and the thermos (Budapest, 1903, Pat.-No. 29276)
  • the rotating toothbrush (1905, Pat.No. 25153)
  • Ebonite (a mass used to make gramophone records)
  • a detergent
  • Agent for pest control "Krepax"
  • Systems for measuring liquid flow
  • a xylolite preparation against parasites in railway sleepers
  • Wagon brakes
  • a rail system
  • the manometer
  • the dynamometer
  • special microphones
  • Eavesdropping devices
  • Airplanes (Budapest, 1909, Pat.No. 47374 and 50774)
  • Airplane wing (Budapest, 1909, Pat. No. 50775)


  • Meridijani magazine, “Penkala - nova mehanička olovka osvaja svijet”, issue 12/2002, No. 70, p. 72, author: Ozimec Stjepan

Web links