- NAME: George de Mestral
- OCCUPATION: Engineer, Inventor
- BIRTH DATE: June 19, 1907
- DEATH DATE: February 08, 1990
- EDUCATION: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint-Saphorin-sur-Morges, Vaud, Switzerland
- PLACE OF DEATH: Commugny, Switzerland
- Full Name: George de Mestral
- AKA: Georges de Mestral
Best Known For
George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer best known as the inventor of Velcro®.
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George de Mestral was born in Switzerland in 1907. Trained as an engineer, de Mestral was inspired to invent Velcro® after examining burrs clinging to his clothing after a hiking trip. He began developing the fabric in 1948 and completed work in 1955, patenting his invention the same year. De Mestral died in Commugy, Switzerland, on February 8, 1990.
George de Mestral was born in Saint-Saphorin-sur-Morges, Vaud, a small town bordering Lake Geneva near the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, on June 19, 1907. A gifted student of science, de Mestral studied electrical engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. He worked as an engineer in a machine shop after his graduation.
In 1948, de Mestral happened upon his most enduring discovery while hiking. He and his dog returned from a hike covered in burrs from the plants along the trail. De Mestral examined the burrs under a microscope, studying their structure. He began working to develop a synthetic fastening system that mimicked the hooks and loops of the burrs.
The fabric went through a number of phases before it was finalized. De Mestral worked with a weaver in France to create hooks and loops strong and durable enough to cling together as he intended. Originally crafted from cotton, the fabric ultimately proved more successful when made out of nylon. In 1955, de Mestral unveiled his innovative new material: Velcro®. The name is a combination of the French words "velours" and "crochet," translated to English as "velvet" and "hooks."
After finalizing his nylon-based design, de Mestral immediately patented the material. He released his invention for commercial use in the late 1950s, marketing it as a "zipperless zipper." Despite its carefully conceived design, the product was not an immediate success. Velcro® did not become commercially viable until its adoption by NASA in the 1960s. The positive press received by the use of Velcro® in the space program led to its adoption as a clothing material. High fashion designers including Pierre Cardin gravitated toward Velcro® as a modern, space-age fabric.
De Mestral sold his rights to the Velcro® company once it achieved success. Today, Velcro® is a standard material used in households and businesses on a daily basis. The strong but durable bond of the fabric is particularly popular as a fastener for children's shoes and clothing. Although the original patent expired in 1978, Velcro® is still a trademarked term controlled by the Dutch Velcro® company.
George de Mestral married three times over the course of his life. He died in Commugny, Switzerland, on February 8, 1990. A street in Commugny was named in his honor after his death. De Mestral was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999 for his invention of Velcro®.
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Everyday life is constantly changing and improving thanks to the ingenious ideas of famous inventors past and present. What once seemed impossible is now possible, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s forward-thinking concepts for flying machines (airplanes), Benjamin Franklin’s useful inventions like bifocals and the lightning rod, and Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary “talking machine” (telephone).
The modern era has also produced life-changing advancements whether in science, medicine, the arts, digital media. Music-makers can thank Les Paul for his amazing guitars, while Elon Musk launched the world's first commercial space ship, Steve Jobs' Apple products have made technology beautiful, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page's Google has changed how the world searches for information. These and so many other famous inventors and their creations changed the course of human history. See all inventors.
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