For centuries, man has
walked through fields of weeds and arrived home with burrs stuck to his
clothing. Yet, no one turned this
problem to an opportunity until 1948.
George de Mestral,
a Swiss engineer,
on a hiking trip
through the woods. He
found burrs clinging to his pants and also to his dog's
fur. On closer inspection, he found that the burr's hooks would cling to
anything loop-shaped. This accidental
discovery led him to
hook and loop fasteners.
'What makes burrs so difficult to remove?' de
Mestral wondered. When he returned home,
de Mestral examined one under his microscope and ultimately invented a
hook-and-loop fastener of his own. The principle was simple. The
cocklebur is a maze of thin strands with burrs (or hooks) on the ends that
cling to fabrics or animal fur. By the accident of the cockleburs sticking
to his jacket, George de Mestral recognized the potential for a practical
It took eight years to
experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, which consists of two
strips of nylon fabric. One strip contains thousands of small hooks. The other strip contains small
loops. When the two strips are pressed together, they form a strong bond.
Today his invention – Velcro – can be found on everything from clothing and
lunch bags to space suits and spacecraft.
It is strong, easily separated, lightweight, durable, and washable, comes in
a variety of colors, and won’t jam...