Spencer Silver

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spencer Silver
Spencer Ferguson Silver III

(1941-02-06)February 6, 1941
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 2021(2021-05-08) (aged 80)
Alma materArizona State University
University of Colorado at Boulder
Known forInventing adhesive for Post-it notes Disputed
Scientific career
ThesisAcenaphthene epoxides and related derivatives (1966)
Doctoral advisorHenry J. Richter

Spencer Ferguson Silver III (February 6, 1941 – May 8, 2021) was an American chemist and inventor who specialized in adhesives. 3M credits him with having devised the adhesive that Arthur Fry used to create Post-it Notes.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Spencer Ferguson Silver III was born in San Antonio, Texas, on February 6, 1941, to Bernice (née Wendt) and Spencer Silver Jr.[2][3] His father was an accountant while his mother was a secretary.[3] He majored in chemistry at Arizona State University, earning a B.S. in 1962, then earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1966, before taking a position as a Senior Chemist in 3M's Central Research Labs.[4][5]


Silver started his career at 3M's central research laboratory as a senior chemist focused on developing pressure sensitive adhesives.[3] He started working in 1968 on trying to create a strong adhesive that could be used for aircraft construction.[3] However, he failed in that objective and ended up developing a "low-tack" adhesive made of tiny acrylic spheres that would stick only where they were tangent to a given surface, rather than flat up against it. The adhesive's grip was strong enough to hold papers together, but weak enough to allow the papers to be pulled apart again without being torn. It could also be used again and again. The adhesive, acrylate copolymer microspheres, was patented in 1972 and described as suitable for use as a spray.[6]

In 1974, Arthur Fry, a chemical engineer in the tape division at 3M, attended an internal seminar held by Silver, who was promoting his adhesive's properties. Fry regarded it as a potential solution to a practical challenge, that of preventing paper bookmarks from falling out of his hymnal when he sang in church. Fry developed bookmarks using Silver's adhesive, preventing them from leaving residue, and sought to interest others within the 3M company in them.[7][8] The adhesive notes were initially marketed under the name Post 'n Peel in four cities from 1977 and as Post-it Notes from 1980 throughout the United States.[9] Post-it as we know it was patented by Fry in 1993 as a "repositionable pressure-sensitive adhesive sheet material".[3]

Silver worked for over 30 years at 3M rising to a position of a corporate scientist before retiring in 1996.[3] Some of the other products that he worked on included block copolymers and immunodiagnostics.[3] He is named in over 20 U.S. patents.[10]

Silver received several awards for his work, including the 1998 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention[11] and induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.[2] A book of post-it notes is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and both Silver and Fry are given artist credit.[12]

Personal life[edit]

In 1965 Silver married Linda Martin, a computer programmer whom he met when she was an undergraduate working part time at the University of Colorado Boulder's chemistry department and he was pursuing his PhD at the same university. The couple went on to have two daughters, one of whom predeceased Silver in 2017.[3]

Silver was a painter who pursued art seriously after his retirement, working on oils and pastels on canvas and acrylics to create abstract paintings. [3]

Silver received a heart transplant in 1994. He died at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 8, 2021, from ventricular tachycardia.[3] He was 80 years old.[13]


  1. ^ "About Post-it Brand". 3M. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "Inductees > Spencer Silver". National Inventors Hall of Fame. NIHF. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sandomir, Richard (May 13, 2021). "Spencer Silver, an Inventor of Post-it Notes, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. Vol. 170, no. 59060. p. A29. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  4. ^ "Inventor of the Week Archive: Art Fry & Spencer Silver". MIT. Retrieved January 8, 2011.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Spencer F. Silver". www.msthalloffame.org. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  6. ^ "US Patent 3691140A Acrylate copolymer microspheres". Google Patents. Google Inc. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  7. ^ Meyer, Nancy (October 1, 2018). "Arthur Fry, Inventor of 3M's Post-it Note". WeMentor. WeMentor Inc. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  8. ^ Flavell-While, Claudia (August 15, 2012). "Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry: the chemist and the tinkerer who created the Post-it Note". The Chemical Engineer. Institution of Chemical Engineers. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  9. ^ Duguid, Sarah (December 3, 2010). "First Person: 'We invented the Post-it Note'". Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd. Archived from the original on December 11, 2022. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "Art Fry & Spencer Silver | Lemelson". lemelson.mit.edu. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  11. ^ "ACS Award for Creative Invention". ACS. American Chemical Society. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  12. ^ "Spencer Silver | MoMA".
  13. ^ Painter, Kristen Leigh (May 13, 2021). "Co-inventor of Post-its, retired 3M scientist Spencer Silver, dies at 80". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 14, 2021.