100 Greatest Science Inventions of All Time

By Kendall Haven | Go to book overview

Fast Fasteners
(Zipper and Velcro)
Year of Invention: 1893 (and 1913 and 1957)

What Is It? A mechanism for rapidly fastening two pieces of cloth, fabric,
leather, or other material.

Who Invented It? Zipper: Whitcomb Judson and Gideon Sundback (in Chi-
cago). Velcro: George de Mestral (in Switzerland)


Why Is This Invention One of the 100 Greatest?

Zippers and Velcro® have revolutionized boots, pants, sandals, dresses, jackets, backpacks, luggage, and a thousand other items that must be quickly fastened and unfastened. They have changed the way we design and manufacture consumer products. Virtually every person uses these fast, cheap, reliable fasteners every day. These two fasteners have woven themselves into the very fabric of our lives.


History of the Invention

What Did People Do Before?

People always needed some way to clasp and secure their clothing. The button first appeared around 4,000 B.C. in India. Cultures from Egypt to China used every imaginable gadget to hold their clothes together—broaches, clasps, ties, buckles, catches, clamps, and clasps, as well as loops and buttons.


How Were Zippers and Velcro Invented?

In 1889 chubby Whitcomb Judson worked as a mechanical engineer in Chicago. He grew tired of having to bend over to hook each of the eight metal clasps on each of his boots. He decided to do something about it.

Judson studied metal boot clamps for a year before he got an idea—partly based on 1851 work by Elias Howe (the inventor of the sewing machine). Judson imagined a metal device that would slide from clamp to clamp and hook each one as it went.

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