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!
agricultural (a.) 農業的，農學的
microscope (n.) 顯微鏡
textile (n.) 紡織品
combination (n.) 結合，組合