An Idea That Stuck

2 min readNov 3, 2017

The remarkable story behind Velcro

Velcro inventor George de Mestral and burrs.

“Aside from Velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe.” — Dave Barry

One winter in 1948, a Swiss engineer George de Mestral was out walking his dog on the lower slopes of the Jura mountains.

It was a beautiful day outside.

We don’t know the dog’s name but we’ll call him ‘Pluto’ for the purpose of this story.

He was starting to get cold and, keen to return home, called out for Pluto.

After a while his trusty mutt emerged from the bushes and bounded towards his owner with the endless enthusiasm only a dog can have.

When George went to stroke him he noticed that his coat was covered in burdock burrs.

They were almost impossible to remove.

His inquisitive nature got the better of him. He had to find out why they stuck so readily to his pet’s coat.

After examining the burrs’ tiny hooks under a magnifying glass a lightbulb went off in his head.

He locked himself away in a shed (probably) for a number of years and experimented.

Finally, in September 1955, he earned U.S. Patent number 2,717,437.

What he had created didn’t become widely famous until the 1960s when NASA used it to stop things from floating away in zero gravity.

We know it today simply as Velcro. It is a portmanteau of the French words velours (“velvet”), and crochet (“hook”).

Today, it remains one of the best-known and most commercially successful instances of biomimicry.

Thanks ‘Pluto’.

Register your interest now on the website for our Biomimicry course launching in early 2018.




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