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George De Mestral, inventor of Velcro

COMMUGNY, Switzerland - Inventor George De Mestral, whose Velcro fastener stuck so well with the public it replaced millions of buttons and zippers, has died at his home, his wife said Monday. He was 82. Mr. De Mestral's wife, Helen, said he died Thursday from complications of bronchitis and other lung problems. He had been sick for about three weeks, she said by telephone from their home in this village near Lake Geneva.

A Swiss mechanical engineer, Mr. De Mestral in 1941 conceived a fastener using two fabric strips - one covered with tiny hooks, the other with a fuzzy web the hooks could grab.

Patented after 10 years of refinement, Velcro entered production in several countries in the mid-1950s. The fastener, which can also be used to replace adhesive tape, soon became a worldwide success.

It even was used in the U.S. spaceship that took astronauts to the moon in 1969.

Despite its high-tech look, Velcro was inspired by nature.

A passionate hunter, Mr. De Mestral came home once from a day in the fields and found burrs stuck to his pants. The idea of Velcro was born when he examined the burrs under a microscope and found their surface to consist of little hooks.