Thanks to Google for this week's famous immigrant, Gideon Sundback, who was born 132 years ago on Tuesday in Sweden. From this LA Times article:
[Sundback] lived briefly in Germany before making his way to the U.S. and becoming the epitome of the American success story. He didn't actually invent the zipper. Such a device -- which uses metal teeth to pull two sides of material together -- had been dreamed up years before but was clumsy and easily came undone, undermining its usefulness.
Enter Sundback, who was hired as an electrical engineer by the Universal Fastening Co. Solving the dilemma for the company was a way for Sundback to deal with his broken heart. His wife -- the daughter of the plant manager -- had died. "The grieving husband busied himself at the design table and by December of 1913, he had designed the modern zipper," according to About.com's Inventors page.
I never consciously realized how many zippers I deal with each day until posting this! Thanks, Gideon Sundback!