Robert W. Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex who turned the Delaware based W. L. Gore & Associates into a billion-dollar company, died Thursday at the age of 83.
Gore, who went by "Bob," is best known for his 1969 discovery of a versatile polymer, the first breathable waterproof fabric. He introduced the world to the Gore-Tex technology in 1976. Gore was president of the Newark-based company from 1976 to 2000.
He assumed the chairman emeritus role in 2018 after 57 years of service on the Gore board, 30 of those as chairman.
Gore was born in 1937 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the oldest of five children of Wilbert L. (Bill) and Genevieve W. (Vieve) Gore, founders of W. L. Gore & Associates. Bill joined the DuPont workforce after World War II and ultimately was transferred to DuPont’s Experimental Station in Delaware, where the family moved in the 50s.
The family purchased land in Newark and started building a house with help from Bob and the rest of the Gore family. Bob led a "rather ordinary teenage life," the company said in its press release, "playing trombone, participating in athletics, and serving in student government."
Gore then earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.
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 historic Apollo 11 mission.
In 1976, Bob succeeded his father as president and CEO of Gore. Under his leadership, the company’s technological achievements flourished.
Forbes lists Gore and sister Elizabeth Snyder as the richest in Delaware, although the state has no billionaires.
Gore served as a trustee of the University of Delaware Research Foundation and a member of the school’s board of trustees.
In 1998, Bob and his mother donated funds for the construction of a classroom building on the university’s green, which was christened Gore Hall in honor of his family. In 2013, Bob and his wife, Jane, contributed to the development of the University’s science and engineering research laboratories, named in their honor. Bob also has contributed significantly to the University of Minnesota and other institutions.
“Bob’s innovative spirit shaped our Enterprise from the very beginning, paving the way for W. L. Gore & Associates to improve lives and industries," said Bret Snyder, Gore's nephew and current board chair. "We will continue to build on his legacy with a commitment toward breaking new ground and developing solutions that make the world a better place.”
Gore is survived by his wife Jane and a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as four siblings and extended family.