by Mary Hoff
Have you ever gone for a hike and come back with burrs stuck to your clothes? George de Mestral did. Picking the burrs off one day in the 1940s, the Swiss inventor started wondering how they might be put to good use. He looked at the burrs under a microscope and discovered they have tiny hooks that grab onto clothing. He began experimenting with ways to make fabric with burrlike hooks that could stick to other fabric. Eventually he was able to manufacture tiny nylon hooks that could both hold tight to fabric and let go when needed. And so he invented Velcro.
From powerful glues to vivid hues, living things have traits any human might envy. Since the earliest times, inventors have watched how nature solves challenges, then used the lessons nature taught them to make things that are useful to people.
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