George de Mestral was born on Switzerland on June 19, 1907. His father was an agricultural engineer who encouraged young George to use his mind. Mestral invented an patented a toy plane at the age of 12. He attended college in Switzerland and soon after graduation was married to Jeannne Schnyder. He would be married twice again during his lifetime to Monique Panchaud de Bottens and then Helen Mary Dale.
It is said that Mestral came up with the idea for Velcro after a leisurely walk with his dog in 1948. They got back to the house covered in burrs. Mestral noticed that the burrs stuck to the dog’s fur and his clothing. He examined them under a microscope and noted the hook-like configurations. He realized the potential of this natural phenomenon of hooks and loops. He tried making the first Velcro prototype out of cotton, but had to turn to synthetic nylon because the cotton hooks/loops wore out so quickly. The manufacturing process took a few years to perfect and many were skeptical about his new invention. Once all of the intricacies were worked out, he received a patent in 1955 and began mass production. Mestral named his invention Velcro from the French words for velvet (velours) and hook (crochet). Velcro was first used by astronauts, skiers and divers- people who needed to be able to get in/out of their suits quickly. Eventually the product became more refined and spread to many clothing products.
Mestral is noted for being one of the first to promote the field of biomimicry- where inventions are inspired by biological models/concepts. Mestral died February 8, 1990. The town in which he died named an avenue after him. In 1999 he was posthumously recognized for his accomplishments by being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.