Every day, we use things like microwaves and matchboxes to make our lives better. But, believe it or not, these brilliant inventions that allow us to live our lives without worry were not the result of trial and error. But They were created entirely by chance.
In the early 1800s British pharmacist, John Walker would routinely prepare medicines using wooden sticks to mix the chemicals. One day he noticed that one of the sticks had some substance stuck to it.
When he tried to scrape it off, the stick caught fire. And that’s how he came upon this brilliant idea to make life easier in the world with no electricity. He started making and selling these cardboard matches that he later replaced with 3-inch wooden sticks accompanied by sandpaper to light.
Walker humbly decided not to patent his invention because he believed it would be easier for him to benefit humanity this way. Matches soon became popular all over the world and are still a useful commodity today.
American scientist Roy J. Plunkett was conducting research for the company DuPont to find a way to make their fridges safer by replacing the hazardous refrigerant freon with something else.
Plunkett must have thought it was another failed experiment when he discovered that the gas mixture he had created just vanished overnight. And all that was left of it in the container with some white waxy substance, that strange substance proved to have some useful qualities.
It was nonreactive nonstick, and resistant to extreme temperatures from minus 100 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1941 DuPont patented the invention that we all know today as Teflon.
3. Potato Chips
New York chef George Crum got a lot of customer complaints that his fries weren’t crispy enough. George Crum, a bit annoyed, decided to slice the potatoes as thin as he possibly could. Deep fry them in boiling oil and slather them and saw that ought to show him, he probably thought. But to his surprise, people went crazy about the new recipe.
Potato chips have changed a lot since 1853. Today they come in over 200 different flavors, from the classic sour cream and onion to some pretty bizarre ones, like wasabi ginger.
4. Ice Cream Cones
The ice cream itself is nothing new. The Chinese ate something very similar to it as early as 200 BC. However, ice cream cones were the product of a happy accident at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
The ice cream booth had been so rushed with customers that it ran out of bowls. Things weren’t so busy in the next booth over where Ernest Hamlet was selling Persian waffles. In a kind gesture, Ernest Hamlet started rolling his waffles up into cones and offered them to his neighbor to use instead of bowls.
Customers fell in love with the final product, and that’s how the ice cream cone was born.
John Pemberton wasn’t a businessman. He was just a pharmacist trying to find a way to get rid of headaches. So he came up with a simple recipe consisting of two ingredients; coca leaves and Kola nuts combined into a syrup. It went on the market in 1886.
The syrup was supposed to be mixed with water. But the seller once mixed it with soda by accident. This is how the delicious and refreshing drink we all loved today was created.
6. Post-it Notes
Dr. Spencer Silver was working as a chemist for the 3M company back in 1968. He was trying to create a super-strong adhesive but what he got instead was quite the opposite.
A low-track yet high-quality adhesive only strong enough to hold up a piece of paper. But durable enough to be relocated multiple times without losing its stick.
It wasn’t until 1974 when the use for his invention was found. His colleague needed something to mark his hymnal in the church choir, and sober sticky papers worked like a charm. The name “post-it notes” was later dubbed, and they became a must-have in homes, schools, and offices around the world.
7. Safety Glass
French chemist Edouard Benedictus once accidentally knocked a beaker off his desk. He was surprised that it didn’t shatter into pieces but just cracked throughout. He couldn’t figure out why until he noticed that the beaker had had a thin film of liquid plastic in it leftover from a previous experiment. And this is how shatterproof glass was invented.
8. Vulcanized Rubber
A young scientist named Charles Goodyear was trying to improve rubber quality, which wasn’t so durable in the 19th century.
Goodyear was experimenting and mixing raw resin with salt, pepper, sugar, sand, castor oil, and even soup in an attempt to find the perfect combination. One day he decided to see what would happen if he mixed the rubber with magnesia lime and nitric acid again failure. But once the rubber was mixed with sulfur and accidentally dropped on a hot surface, it worked.
The scientists invented vulcanized rubber that’s now used to produce just about everything from basketballs to car tires.
Before we’d plastic material, there was shellac. Shellac was used at the beginning of the 20th century for those kinds of purposes, including wood varnishing, making records, and even dentures. The problem was its price; it was super expensive to import beetles from Southeast Asia for its production.
So chemists Leo Hendrie baked eel and tried to find a cheaper alternative for shellac. During his experimentation, he happened to come up with something even more useful. The new mixture was a moldable material able to resist extremely high temperatures. We all know it as plastic.
the first antidepressant was discovered in 1957 and was supposed to be a cure for tuberculosis. Its creators noticed that while not doing much to fix the disease, it did help lift the patient’s mood, and we still use this medicine to treat the symptoms of depression today.
11. Implantable Pacemaker
Wilson Greatbatch was trying to create a device that would record the human heartbeat. He added the wrong electronic component by mistake, which made the product recreate the heart’s rhythm. This pacemaker was successfully implanted in the first human in 1960 and had been saving lives ever since.
Scottish scientist Alexander Flemming’s laboratory was always a mess. Beakers and papers all over the floor, a desk full of Petri dishes with different kinds of bacteria. One day the scientists found mold in one of the Petri dishes that contain the staphylococci bacteria.
The mold had created a sterile shield around itself, killing the bacteria in the dish.
Flemming, intrigued, decided to further study the properties of this fungus. He received a Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin in 1945.
When Wilhelm Roentgen unintentionally put his hand in front of an electron beam in 1895. He immediately saw an image of his hand on a photographic plate.
Roentgen noticed that the radiation passed through solid objects and body parts, leaving a shadow. The denser the object was, the more massive the shadow, and now we have x-ray imaging
In 1942 Kodak researcher Harry Coover was working on transparent plastic for gun sights when he accidentally created an extremely adhesive substance that stuck to just about anything. While working on another research project sometime later, the adhesive proved too sticky, seeing this as both a unique and useful discovery. In 1958 Kodak patented this super glue.
15. Microwave Oven
The next time you’re heating a meal or some popcorn in a matter of seconds, don’t forget to thank Percy Spencer. Back in his day, microwaves, not the kitchen appliance but the waves themselves, were used in radar.
One day Spencer, a Navy radar specialist working for Raytheon, was standing near a microwave emitting magnetron. And he noticed that the bar of chocolate in his pocket had turned into a sticky mess. This is how the microwave oven was invented in 1945.
Related terms (Important Inventions, Best Accidental Inventions, Amazing Inventions, Accidental Inventions, Cool Inventions, Incredible Inventions)