Pop Culture: Stevens Graduate Alfred Fielding '39 M.S. '43 Hon. D.Eng. ’86 Co-Invented Bubble Wrap
Stevens can count many historic firsts, but perhaps none is more recognizable (or hands-on) than the ubiquitous packaging material known as Bubble Wrap, co-invented by Stevens alumnus Alfred W. Fielding '39 M.S. '43 Hon. D.Eng. ’86. Fielding created the squishy stuff with Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes in a New Jersey machine shop during the late 1950s. At first the two inventors were stumped about the bubbly wrap's best use. Ideas to market it as an arty three-dimensional wallpaper or insulation were quickly cast aside before they hit upon the perfect use: as packaging.
Their timing was perfect. IBM was about to invent and begin delivering something large and fragile (computers), and Fielding and Chavannes' invention would prove to be the perfect cushion. Fun to play with and still unbeatable as a shipping, packing and mailing material, Bubble Wrap continues to be a business powerhouse: Sealed Air, the firm Fielding and Chavannes founded, continues to do nearly $5 billion worth of business annually. Each time you open a package packed in the wrap (or pop the little bubbles), remember: it's just one more reminder of how Stevens ingenuity translates to the real world.