Think necessity is the mother of invention? Not always. Not every great invention was created according to plan. Some, in fact, were the result of a happy accident
From Potato chips to life-saving x-ray images and Penicillin, all of these everyday items below were invented entirely by accident.
1- Potato chips
In 1853, in a New York restaurant, a customer sent back his plate of fried potatoes many times and kept asking for them to be more fried and thinner. The chef, George Crum lost his temper, sliced the potatoes insanely thin, fried them, and covered them in salt. To the chef’s surprise, the customer loved them and that’s how the potato chips were born!
2- Microwave oven
In 1945, Percy Spencer was conducting a radar-related research project with a new vacuum tube when he realized that the chocolate bar in his pocket began to melt during his experiments. Utilizing this new knowledge, he patented the microwave. What a lucky accident!
3- Post-it Notes
A 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive. Instead, he had invented the opposite: an adhesive that stuck to objects but could be easily lifted off. It sat unused at 3M until another scientist named Art Fry struck upon the idea that his impermanent glue could be used to stick bookmarks into the pages of his hymnbook.
The Kellogg brothers—Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother Will Keith Kellogg accidentally left a pot of boiled grain on the stove for several days. The mixture turned moldy but the product that emerged was dry and thick. Through experimentation, they eliminated the mold part and created corn flakes.
In 1928, Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming discovered that a petri dish of staphylococcus bacteria had been inadvertently left out and had become contaminated by a greenish-colored mold. After taking a sample and developing a culture, Fleming discovered that the mold was a member of the Penicillium genus, and history was made.
6- Non Stick Pans (Teflon)
Chemist Roy Plunkett was trying to create a new form of CFCs but instead created some mysterious white flakes. These turned out to be the high melting point lubricant now consistently applied to all nonstick pans. Teflon was first used in military applications and is now famously applied to cookware around the world.
In 1943, Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for the Sandoz Company, was researching LSD-25. Hofmann unintentionally swallowed a small amount of LSD while researching its properties and had the first acid trip in history.
In 1826, British chemist John Walker was stirring his chemicals when he noticed a dried lump on the end of his stirring stick. Trying to scrape it off, it invariably sparked a flame, and the idea struck him to convert these to proper matchsticks.
9- Safety Glass
Safety glass was accidentally discovered by the French chemist Edward Benedictus in 1903 when he knocked over a flask and found, to his surprise, that it shattered but did not break. Further, the scientist learned that what had kept the glass together was cellulose nitrate, a type of clear natural plastic, that had left a film on the inside of the glass.
10- X-Ray Images
In 1895, Wilhem Conrad Roentgen, a physicist was interested in investigating the properties of cathodic ray tubes. When shining light through the tubes he noted fluorescent papers in his lab were illuminated even though his machine had an opaque cover. Further investigation soon found that the new ray could pass through most substances while casting shadows of solid objects and paving the way to X-rays as we know them.
11- Coca Cola
Atlanta-based pharmacist, John Pemberton, was seeking to create cocaine- and caffeine-filled alcoholic drinks that people could use as a cure for headaches and nervous disorders. However, in 1885, when Prohibition hit, Pemberton was forced to take the alcohol out of his formula and created a cocoa-based syrup that could be mixed with carbonated water and drank as a soda. And thus the first bottle of Coca-Cola was made.
A Dutch shipmaster used heat to concentrate wine in order to make it easier to transport, with the idea of adding water to reconstitute it when he arrived. He discovered that concentrated wine is better than watered-down wine. As a result ‘Burnt wine,’ or ‘brandewijn’ in Dutch, became a big hit.
In 1989, chemists at Pfizer’s research center were working to find a new drug to treat hypertension and angina pectoris. A new compound that was named Sildenafil was created and subsequently tested on a group of men. Unfortunately, in the clinical trials, the drug proved to be ineffective at helping angina patients, study participants did find that the little blue pill was able to increase the frequency and potency of erections.
Richard James, a naval engineer, was experimenting with tension springs for battleships when one of them dropped to the floor. It kept flopping around, as slinkies are prone to do. His wife Betty came up with the name, and when the Slinky made its debut in late 1945, James got rich and kids everywhere now enjoy stairs a lot more.
15- Ink-Jet printers
A Canon engineer left his hot iron on his pen by accident, and ink was ejected from the pen’s point a few moments later. This principle led to the creation of the inkjet printer.