Bob Gore shares his thoughts with company staff

Bob Gore shares his thoughts with company staff

The inventor of Gore-Tex, the waterproof material used in thousands of outdoor garments, has died.

Bob Gore passed away peacefully on Thursday, aged 83, following a long illness, his company said.

He was chairman emeritus of WL Gore & Associates, and had been on the company’s board for 57 years.

Robert W Gore’s discovery of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, ePTFE, in the 1960s paved the way for the creation of the material that allows small molecules of water caused by perspiration to escape while keeping the larger rain droplets at bay.

The company said: “One night in October 1969, Bob was researching a new process for stretching extruded PTFE into pipe-thread tape when he discovered that the polymer could be ‘expanded’.

“The discovery followed a series of unsuccessful experiments in which he was attempting to stretch heated rods of PTFE by about 10 per cent.

“As it turned out, the right conditions for stretching PTFE were counterintuitive. Instead of slowly stretching the heated material, he applied a sudden, accelerating yank that unexpectedly caused it to expand to nearly 1,000 per cent.

“This resulted in the transformation of solid PTFE into a microporous structure that was mostly air.

“The introduction of this groundbreaking new material opened a world of possibilities for products and further innovations. The substance provided myriad new product applications including Gore-Tex fabrics, the world’s first waterproof breathable outerwear and a product that through the years has become synonymous with the outdoors.

“Today, ePTFE is at the heart of products found everywhere from the depths of space to the inner workings of the human body. Along the way, Bob would be awarded nine patents for his work with fluoropolymers.”

Bob Gore was born on 15 April 1937 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the eldest of five children. His father Bill and mother Vieve Gore, founded WL Gore & Associates.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree and PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

The company said: “Like his father, Bob was a born entrepreneur. As a sophomore in college, he solved an early technical challenge that helped kick-start his parents’ company which was founded in 1958 in the basement of their Delaware home.

“With a focus on exploring the untapped potential of the fluoropolymer PTFE, Gore served the wire and cable industry during its early years. In 1969, the company’s cable technology landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission.”

In 1976, Bob Gore succeeded his father as president and chief executive of Gore. Under his leadership, the company’s technological achievements continued.

Gore-Tex fabrics are used by brands across the world. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Gore-Tex fabrics are used by brands across the world. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Current Gore chief executive Jason Field said: “Bob Gore appreciated that innovation can arise from many different places if entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and fostered.

“Innovation as activity, doing things with your hands, experimenting, testing and observing, was instilled in our enterprise consistently and productively throughout Bob’s tenure as both president and chairman.”

“Gore associates ranging from engineers to marketers considered Bob a leader, a mentor and a contributor to their personal success and the success of the enterprise.

“I am sure I speak for all associates when I say I grew as a leader through Bob’s guidance. His passion for the quality and performance of our products and his incisive questions and insights shaped not only the culture of our technology efforts but the values at the core of who we are.”

Bob Gore assumed the chairman emeritus role in 2018 after 57 years of service on the Gore board, 30 of those as chairman. He also served as president of Gore from 1976 to 2000.

During his tenure as president, Gore became a billion-dollar enterprise. Marking the occasion in 1996, he said, “We plan to leave a legacy to society and to future generations: infants with surgically reconstructed hearts that live because of our medical products; governments of free societies that are better able to protect themselves because of defence products; communities with cleaner and healthier environments because of our filtration and sealant products; and yes, people that just have more fun in the outdoors because of our Gore-Tex outerwear.”

Bob Gore recreates expanding PTFE

Bob Gore recreates expanding PTFE

He served as a trustee of the University of Delaware Research Foundation and a member of the school’s board of trustees.

In 1998, he and his mother donated funds for the construction of a classroom building on the university’s green, which was named Gore Hall in honour of his family. In 2013, Mr Gore and his wife Jane contributed to the development of the university’s science and engineering research laboratories, named in their honour. He also has contributed significantly to the University of Minnesota and other institutions.

Bob Gore is survived by his wife Jane and a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as four siblings: Susan Gore, Ginger Giovale, David Gore, Betty Snyder and extended family.