We live in an era in which innovation and new discoveries are constantly happening. In most cases, these types of innovations and inventions take years of research and development. However, there are instances where things just happen by accident. Check out these 10 inventions that happened by mistake.
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Invented by Alfred Nobel, it is said that this Swedish chemist discovered the key to dynamite through an accident.
While working with nitroglycerin, a highly explosive liquid, Nobel saw that one of the cans that the nitroglycerin was being transported in had broken and began to leak. He noticed that the material that the cans were packed in, a rock mixture known as kieselguhr, had absorbed the liquid nitroglycerin. The explosive is the most dangerous when in its liquid form, so Nobel thought he could use kieselguhr as a way to stabilize the nitroglycerin.
Nobel eventually developed a formula that combined kieselguhr and nitroglycerin without losing the potency of the explosive. He went on to patent this product and named it dynamite, revolutionizing the creation of explosives and its use in construction.
LSD, or Lysergic acid diethylamid, was actually invented as a possible medicine. However, the psychedelic effects that LSD had were discovered by accident.
Albert Hofmann was seeking to study the potential medical benefits of compounds that were derived from ergot, a fungus. He eventually produced one derivative, LSD-25 that wasn’t given much attention at the time.
Hofmann decided to study LSD-25 a bit more five years after its creation. He accidentally ingested some of the LSD-25 and began to see ‘fantastic pictures’ and ‘intense kaleidoscopic play of colors.’
LSD-25 was eventually abused as a recreational drug in the 1960’s for its psychedelic nature.
Velcro was invented by an electrical engineer name George De Mestral. He came up with the idea after walking his dog one day. After returning home from a walk with his dog, he noticed that there were cockleburs stuck to his dog’s fur. He decided to get a closer a look with a microscope.
Upon closer examination, he saw that the cocklebur had many tiny little hooks the latched on to fibers or clothing or fur. He took that concept and began to toy with materials to bond together using surfaces with hooks and loops. De Mestral eventually went with nylon for his invention and called in Velcro.
7. Corn Flakes
It’s funny to think that one of America’s favorite cereals was developed accidentally.
Keith Kellogg, who was a forgetful person, was working in a sanitarium with his brother, helping patients and their diets. While cooking meals for patients, Kellogg discovered something that would change the course of his life.
Kellogg was responsible for producing bread dough for the patients. One day he left the main ingredient, boiled wheat, sitting out for a few hours. He returned to roll the boiled wheat into dough and found that it had become flaky. He decided to bake the dough anyways and to see what happens. What he created was a flaky crunchy snack that the patients loved.
Kellogg eventually altered the recipe to use corn as the main ingredient and the rest is history.
Saccharin is one of the first artificial sweeteners created. Invented in a lab at Johns Hopkins University by Constantine Fahlberg and Ira Remsen. Fahlberg and Remsen were working to synthesize other chemicals, when Fahlberg took some Saccharin home on his hands by accident.
While having a meal at home, he noticed that his bread had a very sweet taste to it, despite not having added any sugar to his meal. He realized that the sweetness came from one of the substances he was working on in the lab. He eventually went on to patent saccharin alone, despite his collaboration with Remsen to create the product.
Saccharin is still found in products today, including the popular sweetener Sweet’N Low.
Generally, side effects to drugs are a bad thing. However, in some cases it can lead to some huge discoveries.
Two researchers working for Pfizer were studying a new drug and its effectiveness. This new drug was meant to treat a heart condition known as angina and high blood pressure.
During clinical trials, the drug was not as effective as researchers had hoped. However, they did notice that one of the side effects that patients were reporting were erections.
Pfizer went on to test the drug for treating erectile dysfunction and the drug proved to be successful, eventually being named Viagra or sildenafil citrate.
4. Microwave Oven
One of the appliances that a household can’t live without, the microwave oven was actually invented by accident.
Percy Spencer was at a lab of the Raytheon Company inspecting a magnetron. While standing in front of the magnetron, he noticed something interesting.
A candy bar that Spencer had in his pocket had melted. Spencer decided to see if other food items would be effected by the device. He tried out several other food items including popcorn and was successful in cooking them. He went on to invent a machine that used similar technology, which eventually came to be the microwave ovens we know today.
Four names come to mind when it comes to anesthesia, Crawford Long, William Morton, Charles Jackson and Horace Wells. The four of these men realized that the use of nitrous oxide and ether can inhibit pain.
Both of these compounds were popular for their entertainment value in the 1800s. These four men, like so many others at the time, took part in or witnessed events called ‘laughing parties’ and ‘ether frolics’ as a source of amusement. At these events is where the four men learned about how the compounds acted to inhibit pain in people.
Horace Wells first realized the potential use of these compounds while attending an exhibit. He witnessed a man injure his leg while under the effects of laughing gas. The man told Wells that he did not feel the pain of his bleeding leg.
Wells eventually went on to use laughing gas as an anesthetic while removing his tooth. He later collaborated with Morton and Jackson in using anesthesia during dental procedures. Crawford Long went on to use them for minor surgeries, and the use of anesthesia for medical procedures grew from there.
Wilson Greatbatch invented what is known as the modern pacemaker. However, his discovery was made by chance.
Greatbatch was building an oscillator so that he could record the heart beat sounds of animals while at Cornell University. He accidentally installed the wrong transistor in his device. Although he realized his mistake, he was still curious to see what would happen. He turned on the oscillator only to hear a rhythmic pulsing that sounded much like a heartbeat.
This turned out to be ideal for pulsating signals to the heart. After testing his device on animals, he eventually implanted one into a human being in 1960.
One of the most important advancements in modern medicine, the discovery of penicillin was an accidental one.
Penicillin was first discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. After taking a vacation, he returned to his lab to find that a strange mold was growing in a petri dish. He noticed the bacteria that was in the petri dish did now grow where the mold was growing. Fleming was able to isolate, classify and describe the mold but failed to produce the mold in large amounts.
Eventually penicillin was produced at a large level using a different type of mold that grew better by Howard Florey, Norman Heatley and Andrew Moyer.