Necessity isn’t always the mother of invention. What! Numerous unintentional inventions and serendipitous discoveries have occurred during the course of human evolution. In reality, according to experts, between 30% and 50% of all scientific discoveries are unintentional. One of the profound things that distinguishes us from other animals is our capacity to quickly see the utility in something unforeseen. Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable; some coincidental discoveries have produced such astounding success that they have grown somewhat cumbersome. However, whether they were blessings or curses, the following from the previous two centuries are the 10 accidental inventions that changed the world.
The inventor’s name is Ruth Wakefield – owner of the Toll House Inn. Wakefield only desired baking some chocolate cookies. In 1937, Wakefield noticed she was out of baker’s chocolate while preparing a batch of cookies. Instead, she cut up some sweetened chocolate and mixed it into the cookie dough. The chocolate was supposed to melt so she could make chocolate cookies, but the little pieces remained intact. The chocolate chip cookie: a world changer? Maybe not, unless you add up all the joy you get from eating into one right out of the oven. They have undoubtedly contributed to many mood swings.
A salty, oily, crispy wisp of tuber that Americans spend more than $7 billion on each year is the potato chip. The invention of the potato chip was more of a prank than an accident, although its creator was unaware of its impending success. According to folklore, in 1853, George “Speck” Crum, the cook of a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, was irritated by the complaints of a wealthy customer who kept returning his thickly cut French-style potatoes, a typical dish at the time.
After the third trip, the irate Crum sliced the potatoes as thinly as he could, fried them to a crisp, and sprinkled them with what he believed to be an excessive amount of salt. The customer loved them, much to his surprise and probably initial dismay, and requested another round. They swiftly rose to the status of house specialties, profoundly altering the history of snacking. In fact, a significant study conducted by Harvard University recently found that the potato chip is the main contributor to weight increase in Americans.
John Walker, a well-known chemist of the 19th century, was stirring a mixture with a stick when he observed that some of the liquid had collected on the end of the stick. He was shocked to discover that it caught fire right away as he was scraping that off close to his hearth. As a result of this action, match sticks were unintentionally created. Initially constructed of cardboard, matchsticks were subsequently made of wood. This was among the groundbreaking accidental inventions that changed the world.
When Roentgen experimented with cathode-ray tubes, he found that when the room was dark and the tube was on, the neighboring screen would shine even if the rod was covered. The screen hit right to block the rays as they illuminated various items. He put his hand in front of the tube after trying unsuccessfully to block the light with a number of objects and discovered that he could see his bones on the screen. This was one of the accidental inventions that is now widely used in medical procedures.
The inventor’s name is John Pemberton – a pharmacist. When he was a resident of Atlanta in the 1880s, Pemberton advertised his “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca” syrup as a remedy for headaches and nerve ailments. When the sale of alcohol was outlawed in Atlanta in 1885, Pemberton developed a syrup that contained only coca that could be used with carbonated water to make soda. The outcome was Coca Cola, a “brain tonic” that was ideal for the time of the temperance era.
Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon Corporation, accidentally created something quite beneficial while working on a radar-based project. He noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket melted much sooner than usual while he was testing a vacuum tube. This intrigued him, so he tried other things in the tube, such popcorn and eggs. He then came up with the idea that the microwave energy was what was causing the food to become hot. It’s one of the 10 accidental inventions that changed the world easing our day-to-day life.
The inventors’ names are Spencer Silver and Art Fry – researchers in 3M Laboratories. At 3M, Silver created a “low-tack” adhesive in 1968, but he was unable to use it. The surprising thing about silver’s adhesive was that you could stick something thin to it, like a sheet of paper, and remove it off without causing any damage to either surface. Additionally, the glue could be applied repeatedly. He spent years trying to make the product marketable for 3M, but it seemed to be in vain.
After a long time, when he couldn’t figure out how to insert papers into his hymns at the church choir, his colleague Fry became frustrated. The Post-it was thus conceptualized, albeit it wasn’t until 1980 that it was made widely available.
While he was working in his lab, Benedictus was delighted to see a glass flask fall suddenly without shattering into a million pieces. The glass had only a small crack and retained its entire shape, so he was utterly intrigued. It not only led him to this accidental invention, but it also piqued his interest. He looked at the flask and saw that the cellulose nitrate covering was what prevented the glass from shattering. This ultimately led to the development of safety glasses, which are now extensively used all over the world. The way it was invented made it to be included in the accidental inventions list.
Even while antibiotics sometimes have a bad name for being overused and prevalent, life without them was rife with uncontrollable infection and few effective defences. The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered in 1929 by a young bacteriologist named Sir Alexander Fleming while he was cleaning up his lab. After returning from vacation, he discovered that a petri dish containing Staphylococcus germs had been left unattended. Additionally, he saw that mould on the culture had rendered many of the bacteria inert. Penicillium notatum was the mould that he detected, and later research revealed that it could destroy other microorganisms and be administered to small animals without harm.
The bacteria-killing chemical identified in the mould, penicillin, was isolated ten years after Fleming’s discovery by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain. “For the discovery of penicillin and its therapeutic impact in numerous infectious diseases,” the Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to the trio in 1945. A lab technician fills vials with purified penicillin in the image to the right. The product was freeze-dried during this procedure, and the ice was then removed under vacuum. Penicillin powder was left behind. It’s one of the renowned accidental discoveries ever made.
Its inventor’s name is John Hopps – an electrical engineer. Hopps was investigating hypothermia and attempting to raise body temperature via radio frequency heating. He discovered during his experiment that artificial stimulation might restart a heart that had stopped beating owing to cooling. The pacemaker was invented in 1951 as a result of this insight. The pacemaker is enlisted among the 10 accidental inventions that changed the world.