Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame


Arthur L. Fry - 2002 Inductee

(1931 - ) In the mid-1970s, 3M scientist Arthur "Art" Fry took the need for a bookmark that could be repositioned without damaging the pages and combined it with a failed adhesive experiment to create one of the world’s most innovative office products, Post-it® notes – those little yellow pads whose pages cling to reports and telephones and kitchen walls without leaving a trace of adhesive.

While singing in his church choir, Fry realized he needed a bookmark that would stick in his hymnal pages but could be removed without damaging the page. Seven years earlier another 3M scientist, Spencer Silver, had tried to create a water-soluble adhesive. The experiment failed, but resulted in a new and curious adhesive that stuck readily, but not tightly to surfaces. Remembering Silver's adhesive, Fry used some to coat his markers. With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. Fry used that adhesive and developed the repositionable note paper now known as the Post-it® Note, a "permanently temporary" bookmark that sticks to the page, but can be removed without harming it.

3M’s Post-notes have turned out to be one of the marketing wonders of the decade. Yet virtually at every turn, experts lined up against the idea. Fry faced opposition from many 3M designers and engineers, who were convinced the note pads could not be made. Mechanical engineers told Fry he could not uniformly apply the adhesive to paper. Fry believed he could and assembled a small-scale machine in his basement. Within a few months, he had a machine that churned out the first tear-off pads. The company eagerly planned to move the machinery to the 3M plant, but with all of Fry's adjustments, the machine had grown too big to be carried out the door. The basement wall was knocked out, the machine moved, and production of the pads soon began on a small scale at the 3M plant. The "Press'n'Peel" pads were tested within the company, where staffers quickly became addicted to the notes (the name was later changed to Post-it ® Notes). It took another five years to perfect the specifications and design machines to manufacture the product. 3M began distributing Post-it ® Notes nationwide in 1980. Today they are one of the most popular office products available and are used world-wide in the workplace and homes. The basic product evolved into an entire product line. Post-it ® Notes have become one of the mainstays of the modern office and 3M’s most famous product. 3M also has applied Silver’s polymer adhesive to more than 300 new applications, ranging from medical bandages to reusable interior-decorating kits.

NOTE: These biographies have been compiled from information accompanying the nomination form submitted to the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, information available on the Internet and from a variety of other sources.