49. Delaware : Bob Gore
Bob Gore is chairman of W.L. Gore & Associates, the manufacturing company behind Gore-Tex that his late mother and father founded in 1958. Gore, who received a chemical-engineering doctorate from the University of Minnesota, joined the firm in 1963 and ran the company as CEO from 1976 to 2000. It was Gore who stumbled upon Gore-Tex while working in the lab one night. He was attempting to stretch the material commonly known as Teflon in an effort to cut production costs for the company’s Teflon-insulated cables.
At first, he worked slowly but found that the Teflon kept breaking. He tried then a new tactic: Give it a fast yank. It stretched far more than expected, creating a strong yet porous fabric that is both waterproof and lightweight. Gore-Tex is widely used in outdoor clothing and footwear; it was the first of what has grown to more than 2,000 patents held by W.L. Gore & Associates. Gore remains chairman of the now $3.2 billion (sales) business.