Spencer Silver

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Spencer Ferguson Silver, an American chemist who worked together with Arthur Fry to invent the Post-it notes in 1974. (disputed)

Life and work[edit]

Silver was born in San Antonio, Texas. 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.[1]

Silver is now named on over 20 US patents; however, his most significant invention was not an immediate success. In 1968, Silver developed a high-quality but "low-tack" adhesive,[2] made of tiny, indestructible acrylic spheres that would stick only where they were tangent to a given surface, rather than flat up against it.

Spencer used the patented formula from Shiro Takemoto. As a result, 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. More importantly, the adhesive could be used again and again.

Silver wanted to market the adhesive as a spray, or as a surface for bulletin boards on which temporary notices could be easily posted and then removed. Over the next five years, Silver tried to interest his colleagues at 3M, informally and in presentations. A marketable form of the product proved elusive however, until Arthur Fry attended one of Silver's seminars.

Fry sang in his church choir. He was frustrated with the paper bookmarks he used to mark the songs in his hymnal because they would not stay put. In a moment of insight, Fry realized that Silver's reusable adhesive would provide precisely what he needed.

Fry wrote up his idea for a reusable bookmark and presented it to his supervisors. Initially, management was skeptical, but the staff could not get enough of the samples Fry was passing around. Soon, 3M gave the invention its full support. It took another five years to perfect and design machines to manufacture the product, but on April 6, 1980, Post-it Notes were introduced nationwide in the US. Within two years, the product became very popular in offices, schools, laboratories, libraries and homes. In 2010, Silver was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Both Silver and Fry won 3M's highest honors for research and numerous awards within the intercommunity. Silver still works at 3M, specializing in adhesives technology. In his spare time, he has also won a reputation as an accomplished painter in pastels and oils.[citation needed]

Competing claims[edit]

Inventor Alan Amron has made claims to be the inventor who in 1973 disclosed the technology used on the Post-it note to 3M in 1974.[3][4] His 1997 suit against 3M was settled and 3M paid Amron.[3] As part of the settlement, Amron undertook not to make future claims against the company except if ever a breach of the settlement agreement should occur.[3] However, in 2016, he launched a further suit against 3M,[3][4] asserting that 3M were wrongly claiming to be the inventors, and seeking $400 million in damages.[5][6] At a preliminary hearing, a federal judge ordered the parties to undergo mediation.[3] The suit was subsequently dismissed declaring the previous 1998 settlement agreement to be upheld.[6][7]

In July 2016 a former 3M marketing department employee, Daniel Dassow, voluntarily came forward as an eyewitness that in 1974 Alan Amron had in fact disclosed his Press-on memo sticky notes invention to 3M.[8]


  1. ^ "Inventor of the Week Archive: ART FRY & SPENCER SILVER". MIT. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  2. ^ "About Post-it Brand". 3M. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sticky lawsuit: $400M dispute lingers over Post-it inventor". Los Angeles Times. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b Frean, Alexandra (21 March 2016). "Sticky situation as inventor sues 3M for $400m over Post-it Notes". The Times. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  5. ^ Alan Amron v. 3M Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. et al., case number 9:16-cv-80125, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
  6. ^ a b DelMonico, Kimberly (5 November 2016). "Judge Dismisses Post-it Note Inventor Lawsuit". Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  7. ^ Kang, Y. Peter (9 September 2016). "Fla. Man's $400M Suit Over Invention Of Post-It Notes Tossed". Law360. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  8. ^ https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4237577/amron-v-3m-minnesota-mining-manufactering-company/#entry-63