Robert W. Gore, best known as the inventor of GORE-TEX fabric, died Thursday in his Maryland home. He was 83.
W. L. Gore & Associates, which shared the tragic news Friday, did not provide details about a potential cause of death, but confirmed Gore had been battling a prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife, Jane Gore, and a large family of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Gore, who was born in Salt Lake City and the oldest of five children, received his chemical engineering bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware and received his Ph.D in chemical engineering at University of Minnesota. He replaced his father as president and CEO of the family's company, W. L. Gore & Associates, in 1976, and would go on to turn the business into a billion-dollar enterprise.
During his sophomore year at Delaware, Gore was asked him to come up with a way to manufacture plumber's tape at a low cost. Following a series of experiments, he eventually discovered you could expand PTFE, more commonly known as Teflon, by 1000 percent with heat and a rapid pull. The finding would lead to expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, a polymer that was stronger and more lightweight than PTFE; it was also the basis for the game-changing GORE-TEX Fabrics.
Although GORE-TEX has been used for medical, industrial, and electrical products, the material is most known as a staple in functional fashion. Mega brands like Adidas, Eddie Bauer, The North Face, Arc'teryx, Marmot, and Stüssy have integrated GORE-TEX technology in their designs, thus making the fabric synonymous with waterproof outdoor gear.
"Bob’s innovative spirit shaped our Enterprise from the very beginning, paving the way for W. L. Gore & Associates to improve lives and industries," said Gore's nephew Bret Snyder, the current board chairman of the family company. "We will continue to build on his legacy with a commitment toward breaking new ground and developing solutions that make the world a better place."