Sometimes we work all our lives towards a single goal and never make it all the way till the end, other times we just stumble into one of the greatest inventions humanity has ever seen. There have been many such accidental discoveries which changed the world in one way or another. Here are the 10 most interesting stories that led to inventions which made people extremely famous, and/or ridiculously rich.
1. Potato chips
Potato chips are a staple at any party. We all love them. They are delicious! Some might argue that they do not sound too important, but anyone who has been to a college party without chips, knows just how important they are. They were invented by George Crum in 1853, when he got annoyed at a patron of his NY based restaurant, who just kept complaining that the french fries were quite soggy. Infuriated, Crum sliced the potato thin, fried them, and added salt. The result is a product that runs billion dollar companies.
Diabetic individuals thank the universe that this product was invented, seeing as it is an artificial sweetener that lets them indulge without health issues. It was created when Constantine Fahlberg noticed one day that his food was unusually sweet. He then realized he had not washed his hands before eating For any other chemist, this mistake could have proven fatal, but Constantine ended up inventing saccharin.
3. Chewing gum
Everyone loves chewing gum. But did you know that Thomas Adams, the man who opened the first chewing gum factory was actually trying to make bicycle tyres? In fact, before a day of popping his invention into his mouth and finding that he liked the taste, he had tried turning the chicle found in the Sapodilla trees into masks, boots, and toys. Adams had to add flavour to his invention in order to make it more popular amongst kids who tend to like sweet things, and the ability to chew it for hours made people fall head over heels for the chewing gum.
When Will Keith Kellogg began helping his brother cook meals for patients at the Sanitarium at which he worked, he ended up accidentally stumbling across the recipe for Corn Flakes after leaving some bread dough sitting out for several hours. Upon finding the flaky dough he decided to see what would happen so he baked it anyway, and the rest is history.
5. Coca Cola
Although these days its almost common knowledge, this list wouldn’t be complete without civil war veteran turned pharmacist John Pemberton and what he originally intended as nothing more than a medication.
In the early 1900s Shellac was the material of choice when it came to insulation. But due to the fact that it was made form Southeast Asian beetles the material was not the cheapest thing to import. For this reason chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland thought he might be able to make some money by producing an alternative. What he came up with however, was a moldable material that could be heated to extremely high temperatures without being distorted aka plastic.’
7. Super Glue
While developing plastic lenses for gun sights, Harry Coover, a researcher at Kodak Laboratories, stumbled across a synthetic adhesive made from cyanoacrylate. At the time, however, he rejected it as being far too sticky to be of any use. Years later though, it was “rediscovered” and is today sold under the trade name of “super glue”
Every single guy in the world should be grateful to Percy Spencer, a navy radar specialist who was tinkering around with microwave emitters when he felt the chocolate bar in his pocket start melting. The year was 1945 and the world, or rather the kitchen, hasn’t been the same since.
Alfred Nobel needs no introduction. The man was a genius. Yet his greatest invention was an accident. While he was certainly trying to stabilise nitroglycerine and make dynamite, it was an accidental spill of the highly unstable liquid which made him notice how the rock mixture called kieselguhr absorbed it perfectly and safely. Nobel, being the genius he was, then perfected the formula and retain the explosive potency, and used this knowledge to create dynamite.
This was the first anti-bacterial substance mankind ever created and finally let humanity fight back against infections and more. Alexander Fleming, the man who invented it, was experimenting in his lab, and went on a summer vacation without first cleaning the various petri dishes. He returned to find the most of the dishes covered with mould. The dishes with the mould had very little of the bacteria left, which Fleming was studying. Clearly the mould had stopped bacterial growth in these portions, and killed the bacterias that Fleming was experimenting with. This accidental discovery ultimately led to Penicillin. The road was hard and it took several researchers years to create the first usable dose of penicillin, but it all happened because Fleming forgot to clean his lab, and mistakenly left the lab window open.
Other famous inventions and discoveries which were completely accidental include X-rays, teflon, pacemaker, Play Doh, velcro and safety glass.