Velcro has become an indispensable product in modern times and was actually inspired by nature.

Among the many great innovations that came from the 1950’s is Velcro.  We have Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral to thank for the invention that is used everywhere from your clothes, to hospitals and the military.  Velcro is the first commercially made hook and loop fastener and de Mestral invented it in 1948.  He got the idea one day after returning from a hunting trip in the Alps with his dog. His clothes and the dog’s fur were covered with tiny burrs of burdock, a plant that has a prickly head.  He looked at the burrs under a microscope and noticed that they were covered in tiny hooks that stuck to anything with a loop, such as the dog fur.  He had the idea that this kind of hook and loop mechanism could be replicated in order to bind two materials together.

George de Mestral took his idea to Lyon, France, which was at that time a center for weaving.  Most people he spoke to didn’t take him seriously.  He was able to find one weaver who made a sample using two strips of cotton.  It worked but the material wore out too quickly so he experimented with synthetic fibers, settling on nylon which had recently been invented.  It took years of research and experimentation to get the product right and create a mechanized process that worked. He submitted the idea for his patent in 1951 and it was approved in 1955.  He opened shops across Europe and eventually in the United States is 1957.  The first mention of Velcro was in an article by Sylvia Porter in 1958 who wrote about a “zipperless zipper” that had been invented.  It took a few years for Velcro to catch on, but the product got its big break when it was used to make the bulky space suits for astronauts a little easier to get on.  Now it is hard to imagine life without Velcro and George de Mestral has been inducted into the national inventors hall of fame for his innovation.

 

 

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