Robert W. Gore, the inventor of the waterproof fabric Gore-Tex, was born the oldest of five children in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gore’s father worked as a research engineer for DuPont—the company responsible for the invention of Teflon. But Gore, who was a chemical engineering student at the time, had an idea for using Teflon to make wire insulation, which led his father to form W.L. Gore & Associates in 1958 and patent his son’s idea.
Gore joined the family firm as an official researcher soon after receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1963 and continued experimenting. Part of his new research involved looking for ways to make Teflon into better cables. In 1969, after many failed attempts to slowly stretch the heated material (it would simply break each time he tried), he finally yanked it in frustration, which, to his surprise, caused it to stretch. This led to the development of a breathable fabric, which was named Gore-Tex, after its inventor.
Today, Gore-Tex is used in a variety of products and industries. However, it is still best known for its use in outdoor clothing and footwear such as hiking boots. It is even used by participants in expeditions to Antarctica and was used in the spacesuits for NASA’s first shuttle mission. Because of their durability, Gore-Tex cables were also used during NASA’s first unmanned mission to the moon.
14. Medical informatics (Computers in the Medical Field)
Until Dr. Homer R. Warner came along, using computers to measure and analyze medical data was unheard of. Warner, a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Minnesota in 1953, had studied both math and engineering, which made him the perfect candidate for fusing computers with the medical field. His first major breakthrough was at the Mayo Clinic a year after graduating, where he created a way to accurately measure the amount of blood the heart pumps each time it beats. Before this time, doctors could only guess. From there, he went on to develop a computer system that could use information to more accurately diagnose heart disease patients than a physician could on their own.
Warner’s research was also influential in medical genetic research in the early 1970s, aiding several fellow Latter-day Saint physicians at LDS Hospital as they used family history records and other government and health records to compile information on ailments such as cancer and heart disease into the Utah Population Database. According to the Huntsman Cancer Institute website, this database is still used today for over 200 research projects.
Warner and his first wife, Kay, were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1946 and served as medical missionaries in Europe from 1996 to 1997. After Kay passed away, Warner married Jeanne Okland, and after Jeanne’s passing, he married June Okland Cockrell.