Robert Gore discovered a new polymer in the company’s laboratory, which then became Gore-Tex, in 1969. His father originally asked him to explore a new way to make low-cost plumbing tape using polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), commonly known as DuPont Teflon.
Gore researched that stretching the PTFE and suddenly tearing it would expand the polymer by 1000 percent. The resulting product, known as ePTFE, formed a microporous structure. Seven years later, he introduced the Gore-Tex material used by ePTFE.
The membrane inside Gore-Tex has billions of pores that are smaller than water droplets. Thanks to this, the fabric is waterproof but breathable, which is used for coats, shoes and other clothing. However, patents were eventually used in a number of other areas, such as the manufacture of medical devices or guitar strings and space travel.
Robert Gore was born in Utah as the eldest of five children. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and then went on to study at the University of Minnesota. In 1976, he succeeded his father as president and CEO of the family company.
WL Gore & Associates was founded by Robert Gore’s parents, and he has been president and board chairman for nearly 25 years.