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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2003


Versatile Velcro®

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Have you ever been outside when it was really cold—and your tennis shoes came untied? Remember how hard it was to re-tie them with frozen fingers? Or, have you ever had a zipper break—and you didn’t have a spare pair of pants handy? Or, have you ever tried, with just one hand, to button a shirtsleeve on your opposite arm? Wouldn’t it be neat if someone invented an easier way to make things “stay put”?

Well, someone has! God provided the idea in nature in what we know as a cocklebur, which is a plant seed that has tiny hooks. When these hooks touch a piece of your clothing, they stick to it with a vengeance! In 1948, a man from Switzerland named George de Mestral was walking his dog. When they returned to the house, both were covered with cockleburs. Mr. de Mestral wanted to know why the cockleburs stuck like they did. When he put one under the microscope, he saw the tiny hooks—which gave him an idea.

He decided to try to copy the tiny hooks, and then make something to which they could stick—just like they did his clothes (and his dog!). Eventually, he invented what we know today as Velcro®. [He came up with the name Velcro® by combining the two French words for “velvet” (velour) and “hook” (crochet).] He patented his invention, which consisted of one strip of nylon fabric formed into tiny hooks, and another made into tiny loops. Whenever the hooks hit the loops, they stick together, producing a fastener that is strong, durable, and easy to use. Put Velcro® on tennis shoes (in place of shoelaces), and regardless of how frozen your fingers are, you can “tie” your shoes easily. Rather than fussing with a broken zipper, you can substitute Velcro®. And instead of trying to button a shirt with just one hand, you can use Velcro®. As inventions go, Velcro® is one of the coolest! It’s so easy to use that even small children quickly get the hang of it (it’s a lot easier to figure out than, say, an invention like an airplane’s cockpit!). People use it on clothes, to hang pictures, and for just about everything else you can imagine.

Other companies produce “hook and loop” fasteners, but only the Velcro Company can manufacture Mr. de Mestral’s invention and call it by the name Velcro®. Where did George de Mestral get his idea for this amazing “hook and loop” combination? From a cocklebur! And who created the cocklebur? Nature’s Great Designer—God—Who also created you!



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