George de Mestral, 82, the engineer who got the idea for Velcro fasteners after wondering why burrs stuck to his socks, died Thursday at his home in Commugny, Switzerland.
His wife told the Associated Press that Mr. de Mestral had been sick for about three weeks and died from complications of bronchitis and other lung problems.
Widely used as a replacement for buttons, zippers and other fasteners, Velcro found early uses in the space program. Light, durable and immune to the rust that may damage metal devices, Velcro has found many other applications in industry, in clothing and on footwear.
The history of the product, with its high-tech image and characteristic crackling sound, has been traced to 1941. Mr. de Mestral, a hunter and outdoorsman as well as a mechanical engineer, was struck by the tenacity with which cockleburrs clung to the hair of his dog and the wool of his socks.
Under a microscope, he found at work the hook-and-loop principle on which Velcro is based.
Hook-shaped projections in the burrs grasped loops in hair or wool. The name Velcro comes from a combination of the first syllables of velvet and crochet. The latter word is French for hook.
The invention of Velcro did not come until 1948. Velcro USA Inc., a subsidiary of a Dutch holding company, began manufacturing operations in this country 10 years later.
While the Velcro principle seemed simple, finding the right materials for the opposing hook and loop tapes and solving problems of development and manufacturing took time.
Beyond conceiving the principle, Mr. de Mestral was "the one responsible for turning the idea into a reality," said Richard Kuhl, vice president of Velcro USA.
Kuhl said Mr. de Mestral had tried making Velcro of cotton fabric, "but there was just no way."
Kuhl said nylon turned out to have the "memory" necessary for the hook material. He explained that after being formed into a hook shape, nylon filaments could be made to retain their shape, where other materials could not.
After licensing Velcro in many countries, Mr. de Mestral reaped royalties for 30 years and also received profits from a Swiss factory.
Acquaintances described him as a kindly man, gentle and pleasant with a good sense of humor.
A lifelong tinkerer and student of the mechanical world, Mr. de Mestral designed or invented a variety of items including an aircraft, a tractor and a device for measuring humidity.
In addition to Velcro, at least one of them sold well, his wife said. It was an asparagus peeler, to which he reportedly devoted considerable time.
AMELIA R. SHEPARD
Real Estate Broker
Amelia R. Shepard, 68, a retired Georgetown real estate broker who had been a member of Georgetown Presbyterian Church, died of a pulmonary embolism Feb. 11 at her home in Washington.
Mrs. Shepard was a native of Washington. She was a 1939 graduate of Western High School and a 1940 graduate of the Washington School for Secretaries. She was a secretary for a Florida congressman and the Washington sales office of a New York clock company in the early 1940s.
In 1952, she began her real estate career as a saleswoman in Georgetown. She worked for two real estate agencies before becoming an independent broker in Georgetown in the mid-1950s. She retired in the mid-1980s.
Survivors include her husband, Allen C., of Washington; a son, Allen Jr., of San Francisco; a sister, Frances R. Cairnes of Melbourne, Fla.; a brother, Carl W. Rosenbusch of Washington; and two grandchildren.
NICHOLAS J. MIGLIORE
D.C. Highway Inspector
Nicholas J. Migliore, 82, a retired inspector with the D.C. Highway Department who had belonged to St. Ann's Catholic Church in Washington, died Feb. 9 at a hospital in Sanford, Fla., after a heart attack.
Mr. Migliore, a Washington resident from 1937 to 1984, was a resident of Deltona, Fla., and a native of Philadelphia. He worked for the Corsin & Gruman construction company in Washington before joining the D.C. Highway Department in 1953. He retired in 1972.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Mary Migliore, of Deltona, and a sister, Alba Hiatt of Mount Airy, N.C.