The Sticky Yellow Square
In 1968 Spencer Silver (PhDA&S’66), a senior chemist at 3M’s Central Research Labs, developed a peculiar adhesive. Made out of tiny bubbles, it was strong enough to hold papers together but weak enough that they could be pulled apart. It could be reused several times before it lost its stick. Unsure what to do with his creation, Silver tried to interest his colleagues at 3M in his invention.
“It was part of my job as a researcher to develop new adhesives, and at that time we wanted to develop bigger, stronger, tougher adhesives,” he told CNN. “This was none of those.”
Five years passed before new 3M product development researcher Arthur Fry had an idea. Fry sang in a church choir, and every time he opened his hymnal his bookmark fell out. Tired of picking it up, he realized Silver’s adhesive was just what he needed to keep his bookmark in place. Voilà, the concept of the Post-it note was born, and the product launched in 1980. Two years after appearing on the market, the iconic yellow notes had become a staple for offices, schools and homes. Today, more than 50 billion Post-it note products are sold every year.
As for Silver, his name appears on more than 22 U.S. patents.
Photo by iStock.com/bluestocking