Ernő Rubik, its inventor, was born in Budapest during World War II. He studied interior architecture and, soon after obtaining his degree, began teaching in the field. Over the course of one of his lectures, on shapes and space, Rubik figured out this particular possibility. He had put together a prototype while studying how to get the individual cubes to stay together and interact. The results surprised him! Listen to him talk about his first experiences with the puzzle here.
Rubik applied for his patent in Hungary in 1975 and was granted it in 1977. Since then, he has continued to develop engineering puzzles like the original cube and—more importantly—to teach. The toy is an extension of his profession, and interviews with the inventor reveal how much this creation means. In his own words:
It’s really not a puzzle or a toy. It’s a piece of art.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.