【英文閱讀】從薊草的刺果發明出「魔鬼氈」

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【英文閱讀】從薊草的刺果發明出「魔鬼氈」

Velcro: The Invention that Hooked the World

George de Mestral was born in a small village near Lausanne, Switzerland in June 1907. The son of an agricultural engineer, he showed an interest in inventing at an early age. In fact, he received his first patent—for a model airplane—when he was just 12. After later graduating from the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, de Mestral found a job working in a machine shop at an engineering firm.

On a summer day in 1941, de Mestral returned from a hike in the woods to find that his clothes, and his dog’s fur, were covered with thistle burrs. Curious about how the burrs could attach so easily—and also be removed and reattached—he took a burr and examined it under a microscope. To his surprise, he discovered that it had hundreds of tiny hooks on its surface, allowing it to catch on loops of fabric or fur. This was de Mestral’s eureka moment: by designing a similar “hook and loop” system, he could create a clothing fastener that was easier to use than buttons, and wouldn’t jam like a zipper.

When de Mestral first took his idea to Lyon, France’s main textile center, most people laughed at him. But with the help of a local weaver, he eventually succeeding in creating two strips of nylon fabric—one with hooks and the other with loops—that could be stuck together and pulled apart. After receiving a patent in 1955, de Mestral started a company to manufacture his new product, which he called Velcro—a combination of two French words, velours (velvet) and crochet (hook). Today, Velcro can be found on everything from clothes and shoes to wallets and even spacecraft!

魔鬼氈:鉤住世界的發明

喬治迪梅斯楚於一九○七年六月出生在瑞士洛桑附近一個小村落。身為農業工程師之子,他很小就展現出發明的興趣。事實上,他年僅十二歲便取得他的第一項專利―一架模型飛機。後來自洛桑的聯邦技術學院畢業後,迪梅斯楚於一家工程公司找到任職機械工廠的工作。

一九四一年一個夏日,迪梅斯楚從森林健行回來,發現他的衣服和狗的毛上都黏滿了薊草的刺果。他很好奇那些刺果是如何這麼容易就附著上去―去除之後還可重新附著―他便拿了一顆刺果,在顯微鏡下檢視。他驚訝地發現刺果表面有數百個微小的鉤子,使之得以鉤住布料或毛髮上的環。這時迪梅斯楚靈機一動:如果設計出類似的「鉤環」系統,他便能製造出比鈕扣容易使用,也不會像拉鍊一樣卡住的衣物扣件。

梅斯楚剛將構想帶到法國紡織重鎮里昂時,大多數人都嘲笑他。但在當地一位織布工的幫助下,他終於成功製作出兩條尼龍布―一條有鉤,一條有環―可以黏在一起再拉開。一九五五年取得專利後,迪梅斯楚開了一家公司製造他的新產品,他稱之為「魔鬼氈」(Velcro)―結合了「velour」(絲絨)和「crochet」(鉤子)兩個法文字。如今,從衣服、鞋子到皮夾甚至太空船,到處都見得到魔鬼氈的蹤影!

【實用字彙】
agricultural (a.) 農業的,農學的
microscope (n.) 顯微鏡
textile (n.) 紡織品
combination (n.) 結合,組合

本文取材自《改變人類生活的創意發明Eureka!:EZ TALK總編嚴選特刊

圖片來源:pixabay

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