From Nature to NASA: The Fascinating Story of Velcro, a Pioneering Masterpiece of Biomimicry
Innovation that sticks, or how to turn nature’s aggravations into universal usefulness.
By Maria Popova
Velcro was patented in the United States on May 13, 1958, and invented seven years earlier. The miracle adhesive was the brainchild of Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral (June 19, 1907–February 8, 1990). One afternoon, as he was taking a walk in the forest, he noticed the that burrs — the seeds of burdock thistle — stuck to his clothes and wondered how they did that. So he excitedly rushed home, stuck one under the microscope, and spent the next ten years perfecting nature’s brilliant hook-and-loop adhesion mechanism, eventually producing one of history’s smartest applications of biomimetic design.
To celebrate Velcro’s birthday, here are three different animated short films that tell the same great story of ingenuity and perseverance in just over a minute each.
From HowStuffWorks, here’s a characteristically short-and-sweet evaluation of the invention. Though I have to disagree with their 2/5 on the benefits-to-humanity scale — anything that’s good enough for NASA should be good enough for at least a 4.
From Pan-African media portal ABN Digital, a beat-by-beat recap on the chronology of Velcro’s invention and its impact as a zipper alternative.
And my favorite, from designer Antonio Alarcón Román, a delightfully fuzzy motion graphics narrative:
And a big “THANK YOU” to my wonderful intern, Adam Rubin, who is doing an admirable job of cataloging notable birthdays, deaths and historical anniversaries for me to find interesting content around.
Published May 13, 2011