Slavoljub Eduard PENkala

A famous and versatile Croatian engineer of Polish-Jewish descent, the inventor of writing accessories, founder of the Pens Factory Zagreb, constructor of the first Croatian aircraft and many more useful things.

As you can assume from the title, a pen is not a word of English or some other origin. It took its name from the surname of a famous Croatian inventor. For centuries people tried different writing techniques, stone, blood, wood, but it was not that handy and was of a short duration.


Childhood and education

He was born as Eduard Penkala in 1871 in Liptovsky Mikulas in today's Slovakia. Already in his earliest years, Penkala demonstrated his interest in natural and technical sciences: physics, chemistry, theoretical and practical mechanics, and their application in practice. Disassembling household devices, he was trying to figure out the ways they operate, but he was most interested in birds and butterflies which led to the later obsession with flying.

He was educated in Vienna and Dresden where he graduated in chemical engineering. Even then he was fluent in many languages. Also, during his studies, he attended violin lessons, where he met his future wife, a pianist Emilia Stoffregen. After that, he moved with her to Zagreb. In Zagreb, he got a job as a royal technical controller. Penkala really liked his new home so he decided to change his name to Slavoljub.

Image credit: Pixabay


Life in Zagreb and numerous inventions!

Soon, he opened his own workshop in Zagreb and started dealing with inventorship. His work includes many practical inventions in chemistry, medicine, mechanics, physics, aviation and so on. Some of the revolutionary inventions of Slavoljub Penkala are: mechanical pencil; fountain pen with solid ink; pen and pencil holder, or the so-called 'knipsa'; thermos flask (his first invention from 1903); rotary toothbrush; ebonit (mass of which LPs were made); laundry detergent; pesticide; systems for measuring the flow of liquids; xylolite preparation against parasites in railway sleepers; brakes for wagons; composition of the rails; manometer; dynamometer; special microphones; listening devices; new material for gramophone records; anode batteries; pocket torch and many more.

Penkala also produced calculations for a turbine rotor and helicopter rotor blades. By studying the airflow around the airfoil by using the compressor, he found a new source that generates lift. He also discovered a cure for rheumatism, which he named Radium D. Francovka. Penkala loved nature, especially observing butterflies with his son Eduard. Mesmerised by the butterfly Neptis Lucilla, he got the idea to construct an aeroplane and the two-seater that was built in 1909 was called after him. A year later, it took off and was operated by Dragutin Novak, the first Croatian pilot. He also built a hangar at the military training ground Kajzerica in Zagreb, thus organising the first runway in Croatia for these purposes.

Image credit: Pixabay, Pexels


A Pen :) 

He became renowned for his most famous invention of mechanical pencil under the name of Penkala from 1906, then called an "automatic pencil" and the first solid-ink fountain pen from 1907. Collaborating with an entrepreneur by the name of Edmund Moster, he started the Penkala-Moster Company and built a pen-and-pencil factory that was one of the biggest in the world at the time. This company, now called TOZ Penkala, still exists today and produces numerous types of high-quality writing equipment.

His invention of a mechanical pencil which requires no sharpening has been patented across the globe. Still, many people who use a pen on a daily basis do not know that this epochal invention was made by a citizen of Zagreb. He exported it to over 70 countries. Such number was a result of only ten samples sent throughout Europe, that brought first 100,000 magnificent orders.

Image credit: Pixabay


Funny Marketing

Penkala had thick, black moustache, combed his hair straight up and was a cheerful man. He always wore elegant suits, and a staff in his hand, which was then very modern. Design trademark of his company (which employed 800 workers), was a likeable man with huge ears and a pointed nose, designed by Penkala. It was his caricature. Advertisement and marketing were of a great importance to Penkala. In 1910, in Graz, an apprentice merchant Brown, who had the right of pen representation, advertised pen by being dressed in elegant clothes with a mask of the company trademark on his face and carrying a large pen in his hand as a walking stick. The boy walked the streets of Graz but the citizens laughed at it. This kind of advertisement violated the law and it, of course, ended up in many newspapers.

Early "walk - out"

Penkala died in Zagreb in 1922 at the age of 50, after catching pneumonia on a business trip. He was buried at the Mirogoj Cemetery, where a great number of people came to say goodbye and pay homage. This guy has truly made our lives better and easier. He was always finding inspiration in his environment, from nature or from his daughter that did not like to brush her teeth. Even Google has marked the 141st anniversary of the birth of this humorous genius. We should all follow his example. Nurture knowledge, pay attention to nature and have some fun! ;)

Header image credit: Pexels


Author: Josipa Žižić