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Chemist Discovered the Glue That Held Post-it Notes

3M scientist 'looked at things in a different way,' his wife says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2021 5:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – The inventor of the adhesive used on one of 3M's best-known products, the Post-it Note, has died, according to the company and his published obituary. Spencer Silver, who was 80, died May 8 at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, the family's obituary said. The chemist was working in a company lab in 1968 when he discovered a unique adhesive formula, according to 3M. The adhesive allowed notes to be easily attached to surfaces, removed, and even reposted elsewhere without leaving residue like other glues, the AP reports. For six years, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Silver tried to sell someone in 3M on putting his invention to use, calling it a "solution waiting for a problem to solve."

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In 1974, his colleague Art Fry came up with the idea of using the adhesive to prevent paper bookmarks from falling out of his hymnal when he sang in church. The product was originally called the Press 'n' Peel memo pad in 1974, but it wasn't brought to the market until 1977 and didn’t really take off until 1980, when it was renamed the Post-it Note. It's now one of the top-selling items in 3M's consumer products division. Silver retired as a corporate scientist in 1996 and earned 37 patents during his time at 3M. He also won several awards, including the 1998 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, according to the company. "He was an artistic type of scientist," said his wife, Linda. "He looked at things in a different way and he had the freedom to go beyond."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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