10 Accidental Inventions.
They say, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ and they also say, ‘You can’t cry over spilt milk.’ But nobody every says, ‘Spilt milk is the mother of invention.’ They should; after all, countless discovers and inventions we take for granted today were the direct result of some careless mishap. Here are 10 of them:
10. Stick-it Notes.
They should have been stickier, at least that’s what inventor Spencer Silver thought in 1970. He was trying to develop a strong adhesive for the company 3M, but instead came up with a weak glue that could be removed effortlessly. A few years later, a co-worker of his was at church and got frustrated by how easily his book mark would fall out of his Bible. He thought of Spencer’s product, and tested it on his bookmark. And to this day stick-it notes are used to mark pages of Bibles and Science books alike.
9. Artificial Sweetener.
For those who can’t live without their favorite pink packet, when it comes time to make the morning roast, this accident is a daily life-saver–in that it spares you needless calories (and carbohydrates for diabetics). Constantin Fahlberg, in 1879, hadn’t washed his hands after working all day to find new uses for coal tar. While sitting at dinner with his wife, he ate a roll (with his unkempt hands) and noticed a sweet flavor that evidently wasn’t from the rolls alone. So today, we have saccharine because of one scientist’s neglect for proper sanitary habits; thankfully his wife wasn’t a nagger.
8. The Popsicle.
Popsicles, believe it or not, were really just a failed attempt at making soda. An eleven-year-old boy named Frank Epperson in 1905 attempted to make his own soda, as was popular in the day. Mixing it in a cup with a stirring stick, he left it outside in the freezing cold night, and found the result the next day. Eighteen years later, Epperson remembered his accidental invention and decided to cash in what he had patented as the “Eppsicle” (which his kids called the “Popsicle”).
7. Potato Chips.
These snackfoods we can’t eat lunch without today were actually the result of passive aggression in the workplace (a toned down version of spitting in someone’s food); in 1853, at a restaurant in Saratoga, NY, a fastidious patron named Cornelius Vanderbilt kept complaining about his potatoes, which he said were too thick and soggy. After a number of plates were sent back, chef George Crum (apparently well burnt-out by this point) decided to slice them paper-thin and soak them in grease. Vanderbilt, upon trying them, was effectively silenced with a mouthful of these “Saratoga Chips.”
Medieval wine merchants used to make a habit of boiling the water out of wine before transporting the the goods by sea. Without water, what was left was a highly concentrated residual which apparently found its way out of the barrel (and into the glasses of every young poet and aspiring novelist for centuries to come).
Originally intended in 1942 as an ultra-clear plastic for scopes during WWII, the material being used (cyanoacrylates), was discovered (by one Dr. Harry Coover) to become super-sticky when it came into contact with moisture. While the efforts were scrapped when everything became stuck together, a few years later it proved to be an effective adhesive that didn’t require any externally added heat or pressure. Eventually it become useful as a quick means to stave off bleeding and seal wounds shut in Vietnam.
Roy Plunket in 1938, with his assistant Jack Rebok, was working with a type of CFC refrigerant (yes, those things that are terribly destructive to the ozone layer) called tetrafluoroethylene. After mixing it with hydrochloric acid and filling canisters on dry ice, they went to open them the next day. One wouldn’t pry, had to be sawed open, and the result–not a gas as expected–was fine white flakes, which upon further testing proved to be incredibly heat resistant and anti-adhesive. And soon thereafter, pancakes became incredibly easy to flip.
3. The Microwave.
In 1945, Percy Spencer, a Navy engineer and inventor, was working with a magnetron that emitted microwaves–necessary for radar technology at the time–and noticed, as he was standing next to it, a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. This eureka (and probably a little bit of Tide) moment ultimately resulted in the first microwave oven, which was about the size of a refrigerator and weighed half a ton. Convenient!
This ever essential anti-biotic was directly the result of one eager beaver scientist’s (Alexander Fleming, in 1928) break from reality, thoughts of palm trees and sandy beaches, as he failed to clean his lab area before going on vacation. When he came back, he noticed the mess he had left–he had been working with some kind of cultures–and particularly some weird fungus that seemed to be resistant to bacteria. Just remember, if it weren’t for fungi, you couldn’t be a fun guy.
1. The Pacemaker.
Wilson Greatbatch created the first in-chest pacemaker while trying to create a device that would monitor irregular heartbeats. His error was in using the wrong resistor, a more powerful one (1 megaohm, instead of a 10,000-ohm one). The device pulsed. Then did again at regular intervals. He compared it to the beat of a normal heart, and produced this device which could be planted within a patient’s chest (rather than have a patient rely on an external devise, which often hurt and burnt patients’ skin, as was used prior). This inventor’s product lived up to his last name; just ask the countless to this day who couldn’t live without it.