Photo via Mercado Libre

September 29 marks the annual celebration of the National Inventor’s Day when Argentines commemorate the birthday of Ladislao José Biro, an Hungarian-turned-Porteño who registered the first ever patent of a functional ballpoint pen in 1943.

Maybe you’ve heard that Argentines’ ego is worldwide recognized. Even Pope Francis himself has jokingly admitted to former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa that, “being Argentine, they expected he would call himself Jesus II.”  

Even if you doubt the real reason behind that behavior, many factual events might justify such self-pride, since the country of Tango is also the birthplace of many groundbreaking inventions we couldn’t go without.

Here is a list of the top five Argentine inventions that have changed the world forever:

1. The Genesis of Apple’s Touch ID Dates Back to a Bloody Fingerprint at a Crime Scene in Necochea (1892)

Although governments have a century-long experience at using fingerprinting to identify their citizens and solve crimes, we still think our phones are packed with state-of-the-art technology every time we use our fingerprints to reveal those very-private notifications containing memes from last night’s party.

History says the first successful case of a fingerprint identification method was born in Necochea, a port city in the southwest of Buenos Aires Province, when investigators approached Croatian-born Argentine Juan Vucetich, to help them solve a perplexing crime scene in 1892.

A fingerprint card containing Francisca Roja’s fingerprints. Image credit: Dirección Museo Policial–Ministerio de Seguridad de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Vucetich, an anthropologist, had been working by that time on a system he would later call “Comparative Dactyloscopy,” which helped police convict Francisca Rojas: a murderer who had only left as evidence a bloody fingerprint at the crime scene where she killed her four-year-old daughter and her six-year-old son.

After proving a real success, Vucetich’s system would later extend to the rest of South America, China, and India, where other investigators had been also developing fingerprint identification techniques. More than a century later, we use our unique finger marks to get into the office, unlock our phones and even make payments.

2. A Rural Doctor Came Up With a Surgery to Defeat the World’s #1 Cause of Death (1967)

When Argentine rural physician René Favaloro —who studied at the National University of La Plata— left for the United States without even speaking the country’s native language, he wouldn’t have imagined he would disrupt medicine forever with his contributions to heart surgery.

Cardiovascular (heart) disease is the first cause of death in the world and Argentina, but thanks to Favaloro’s surgical procedures, which he developed at the Cleveland Clinic, millions of people at risk undergo coronary artery bypass surgery every year. Commonly known as only bypass, allows them to have their normal blood flow restored.

Rene Favaloro
Rene Favaloro.

3. The First Functional Ballpoint Pen Was Patented in Buenos Aires (1943)

In Argentina, ballpoint pens are still called “Birome,” which is how its creators Ladislao Biró and Juan Meyne first called the writing instrument, after fleeing Germany during WWII and creating Biró Pens of Argentina.

History claims the Hungarian-born Argentine was tired fountain pens for two reasons: one, he was tired of filling them over and over. And second, they were made for right-handed people, and he was left-handed. So, alongside his chemist brother, he developed a new ink formula that worked on an innovative writing device that mixed gravity’s force and capillary action.

The two brothers and their friend Meyne later registered the Birome patent in the United States and the United Kingdom, which would later be acquired by Bic company founder Marcel Bich, who ignited the massive production of the ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint Pen/ Birome
A Birome ad in Argentine magazine Leoplán. Image credit: Leoplán Magazine.

4. An Argentine Demonstrated the Principle that Would Allow Drones to Take Selfies (1924)

First came Da Vinci’s aerial screws, then helicopters and drones. Still, all of them depend on auto-rotation, a simple physics principle first demonstrated by the Argentine Raúl Pateras-Pescara.

Like most great inventions, the history of the helicopter is long and controversial, since historians cannot decide on who to give credit for the creation of the aircraft. However, most agree that Pateras-Pescara’s advances regarding cyclic pitch and auto-rotation significantly contributed to its development. In fact, many cutting-edge selfie drones are quite similar to the engineer’s first prototypes Helicopter No.1 and 2F.

Pescara’s helicopter prototype can be observed on this mute film called “New Era in Flying.”

5. A Hospital in “The Port City” Functioned as a First-Stage Lab Previous to Blood Banks (1914)

Every year, more than 600,000 Argentines make blood donations that are stored in the country’s blood banks to help patients in need. This facile procedure, that has saved millions of lives since World War I, wouldn’t have been achieved without Luis Agote’s discoveries on anticoagulants to preserve blood.

While historians agree Belgian doctor Albert Hustin also performed a non-direct transfusion in the same year, there are records of Agote conducting the same procedure at the Rawson hospital in Buenos Aires in 1914. And since we are in Argentina, we might just say that Agote was first.

The first Blood Transfusion
Doctor Luis Agote performs a blood transfusion at the Rawson Hospital in Buenos Aires in 1914.

Now you can tell your friends from all around the world that Argentina is not only the birthplace of Pope Francis, Lionel Messi, alfajores, and dulce de leche but also a land that has contributed to the creation of many innovative ideas that have traversed the world’s frontiers.