Robert Gore, who, in the 1970s, made headlines with his invention of Gore-Tex, a stretchable version of Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), sadly died of cancer on September 17.
He was 83 and left behind a legacy in the world of PTFE-based discoveries.
Mr. Gore was best known for his research work on PTFE which has formed a basis for many applications, including waterproof apparel and medical implants. But this success did not come to him overnight.
So, how did the head of W.L. Gore come across this important chemical discovery?
Where It All Began…
Working with chemicals has been in the family for Mr. Gore.
His father, W.L. Gore, was a chemist at DuPont, where Teflon was one of the products worked on.
In those years, shortly after the second world war, Teflon was growing in popularity and newer applications were being sought for it.
In a few years, Gore senior turned into an entrepreneur and founded W.L. Gore & Associates in a partnership with his wife, Genevieve Gore, and the company began its hard work to understand the properties of Teflon better.
Robert Gore, who was at that time studying to become a chemical engineer, began to get hands-on with this material at his father’s lab. This was the beginning of his journey.
Early Experiments and Discovery
Although his parents’ company began to flourish, Robert found himself as the research head of the company in 1969, where he worked tirelessly in the lab to increase the efficiency of PTFE by making it stretchable.
He tried heating and stretching PTFE rods several times, but no matter what technique he used, the rod refused to expand and broke instead.
Then one day, he tried a different technique.
He gave one PTFE rod a huge and rapid stretch and it worked! The rod stretched by 1000% and Robert and A.L. Gore & Associates never looked back.
Gore-Tex Was Born
The discovery of stretchable PTFE, which was branded as Gore-Tex, opened up a plethora of opportunities in several applications, and its earliest use was found in waterproof fabric, such as in ski jackets and tents.
So, the next time you go hiking wearing a waterproof coat, know that in all probability, Robert Gore’s discovery is saving you from the rain.
With years of further experimentation, Gore-Tex began to find its use in a wide range of other applications, including packaging of drugs, fuel cells for electric vehicles, medical implants, personal protective gear, industrial filters, and much more.
The Man with a Commitment
Robert Gore was revered by his board and his employees not just because of his genius within the lab, but also for his integrity and commitment.
Even when his company was growing at an exponential rate, he took it upon himself to personally check the quality of each newly invented product.
He was known to stand in the rain for hours wearing a new jacket made of Gore-Tex just so he could be assured that it works 100 percent.
Similarly, he used to call his company’s helpline numbers to ensure the customer service his company boasts of is truly top class.
So, for a man who made such an impression in the PTFE industry, he will be sorely missed.
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