Going through your day, how many times do you stop to consider that most of what you use someone else has invented, improved, and made your life easier? Me either. But it’s a fact. And another fact is some of the best inventions were discovered by mistakes. Accidents. Beautiful, sweet, life changing, little mistakes. Take a look at all these amazing inventions found by accident.
A Scottish biologist by the name of Alexander Fleming went on a holiday. Upon his return, he noticed that the bacteria he had been growing was dying. This was due to a fungus growing and killing off the bacteria. That fungus was penicillin, and medicine was forever changed.
Percy Spenser was an engineer that worked for the company, Raytheon. He noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket melted after walking by a Megnetron. That got the wheels turning and a few short years later, he invented the first microwave oven. Hot Pocket lovers everywhere would probably like to thank him.
Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral was hiking when he noticed little burrs on his pants. Upon further inspection he realized that the burrs would cling to anything that was loop shaped. After recreating the loops, he was in business. Children that have not yet learned to tie their shoes are certainly appreciative for this invention.
A scientist named Roy Plunkett worked for a company by the name of DuPont. He was working on a project to make refrigerators safer by trying to replacing the refrigerants. He noticed that one of the samples he was working with left a slippery resin that was chemical and heat-resistant. And now we can all make food without having to use oil to keep it from sticking to the pan.
Constantine Fahlberg was a scientist working at John Hopkins University. One day he brought some of the lab items home by mistake. He was eating dinner and wondered why the bread he was eating tasted sweet. He discovered one of the lab compounds had gotten onto the bread. Diabetics from around the world are pretty happy to have this around.
John Pemberton wanted to help cure people’s headaches. The two main items he worked with were cocoa leaves and cola nuts. His lab accidentally mixed them together in carbonated water one day and Coca-Cola was born. Without John refreshing creation, my Jack and Coke would never exist. So for that I thank him.
In March of 1896, a french scientist named Henri Becquerel found he couldn’t use the sun as an initiating energy source for his experiments. The weather was overcast so he wrapped a few photographic plates and put them away in a darkened drawer, along with some crystals containing uranium. Much to his Becquerel’s surprise, the plates were exposed during storage by invisible emanations from the uranium. The emanations did not require the presence of an initiating energy source–the crystals emitted rays on their own! Although Becquerel did not pursue his discovery of radioactivity, others did and, in so doing, changed the face of both modern medicine and modern science.
8. Smart Dust
Chemistry graduate students were working on a silicon chip when it accidentally shattered. They found out that the tiny pieces were still sending signals. This smart dust as they called it, is used today in technologies used to attack and destroy tumors.
9. Corn Flakes
Keith Kellogg was a doctor helping patients with their diets. He accidentally left some bread out and the next day decided he would try baking it anyway. It was a big hit and breakfast was forever changed.
A Swedish chemist and engineer by the name of Alfred Nobel was trying to find a way to stabilize nitroglycerin so that it could be stored. When he was transporting some of the compound, the contents started leaking out of one of the cans. The packing mixture started absorbing the liquid. He realized this was the best way to stabilize the compound. It was most dangerous when in its liquid form.
11. Vulcanized Rubber
Back in the 1830s, rubber was thought to not have the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Charles Goodyear thought there might be a way to change that. When he was experimenting he dropped one of his mixes on the stove by accident and amazingly it didn’t burn. It was weatherproof. Drivers, bike riders, and many others thank him for this.
Wilson Greatbatch was building an oscillator to record the heartbeat sounds of animals. He accidentally grabbed the wrong transistor. When he turned it on, he noticed it had a very familiar pulse sound that was similar to a heartbeat. People with bad tickers everywhere are happy to have them!
13. Modern Anesthesia
Alcohol was used to help patients with the pain on the battlefield and during procedures like amputations. In the 1800s, doctors started to notice that ether and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) inhibited pain in people. Anyone that has ever required surgery thanks the whole lot of them.
14. Silly Putty
During World War II, James Wright was trying to make a synthetic rubber substitute. He dropped boric acid into silicone oil and found out it made a bouncy substance. In 1950, Peter Hogson saw its potential to be used as a toy. Silly children everywhere are thankful this all happened.
15. Post-it Notes
No, it wasn’t the cute girls in the picture that invented Post-it Notes. It was Arthur Fry, an employee of the company 3M. He used what he thought to be a useless sticky substance to hold bookmarks in his hymnal while singing in his church choir. I bet 3M is happy they decided to take a chance and sell the adhesive notes.
Engineer Richard James was trying to develop a spring to support sensitive equipment on ships. While he was working, one of the springs fell off of a shelf and kept on moving. That gave him the idea to use it as a toy. And we are all glad he did, because they are a classic!
17. Potato Chips
Chef George Crum was upset with a customer that kept sending his fried potatoes back saying they were too soggy. So he sliced the potatoes as thin as possible and fried them in hot grease. The customer ended up loving them, and the potato chip was born! Chip lovers all over the land should take a bow to this man.
The story goes that 2,000 years ago in China, a cook accidentally mixed sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. The mixture burned and he found out that it exploded when compressed into a bamboo tube. The skies would be pretty boring on Chinese New Year, Independence Day, and a lot of other celebrations would not be the same without fireworks.
Joseph and Noah McVicker were trying to make wallpaper cleaner in 1955, when they accidentally ended up inventing Play-Doh. Toy manufacturer Rainbow Crafts marketed it less than a year later. And kids play time was forever changed.
20. Super Glue
In 1945, Dr. Harry Coover considered one of the substances he created to be a failure because it stuck to everything it touched. And then what do you know, that ended up being a great thing. There are too many things that should be thankful for this one.
Okay so maybe X-Rays weren’t exactly an invention. But they were discovered back in 1895, when German Physicist Wilhelm Roentgen was experimenting with Cathode ray tubes and happened to notice a piece of fluorescent cardboard lighting up from across the room.
22. Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mrs. Wakefield, the owner of The Toll House Inn, was making chocolate cookies but ran out of regular baker’s chocolate. So she decided to use broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate. She thought it would mix into the batter to make the chocolate cookies she was trying to make. Instead she ended up with yummy pieces of chocolate and a new kind of cookie.
In 1905, an 11-year-old by the name of Frank Epperson left powdered soda and water together on his porch with a stir stick left in the cup. That night the mixture froze. When Frank discovered the treat the next day, he named it the Epsicle. Two decades later he decided to go public with the treat and renamed it Popsicle.
24. Stainless Steel
In 1912, Harry Brearly was trying to create a gun barrel that would resist erosion. After several months of experimenting one of his items retained its luster. It was because it had 12 percent chromium. Just the right amount to prevent rust. I don’t know about guns, but I am certainly thankful for my stainless steel kitchen appliances.
In 1907, Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland was trying to find a replacement for shellac. He noticed when he controlled the temperature of formaldehyde and phenol then combining it with wood flour, asbestos, or slate dust he could create a compound that was mold-able and heat-resistant. He called this invention Bakelite. I do not believe there is a person alive today that doesn’t use or at least come into contact with plastic numerous times a day.
The next time I clean my kitchen with all its stainless steel appliances, eat a Popsicle, or stuff my face with some good old chocolate chip cookies, I am going to think back to these people. At least for the next little bit. And be thankful they existed.