Lew Lehr

Discovery: Surgical Drapes
Early Pioneer of Everyday Science

In the world of innovation, ideas have no limit, and science provides the platform for launch. More than 6,000 other scientists come to work every day at 3M to help develop new solutions to problems around the world.

When it came to sterile surgical conditions in the 1940s, the best surgeons could do was to sterilize a cloth towel and position it around the operation site, attaching it with pinchers to the patient's skin. The wound became exposed, increasing risk of infection. Laboratory researcher (and future CEO of 3M), Lew Lehr got inside the world of doctors and healthcare professionals to understand how his 3M team could improve conditions. The result? 3M's breakthrough surgical drapes featured a plastic sheet with adhesive that would stick to the skin right up to the wound edge, dramatically reducing the risk of infection.