The dangers of our everyday lives lurk in all corners, waiting for us to make one mistake before they strike. Accidents, most of the time, could truly be devastating. What could also be frustrating is if it was mainly because of human error. Now, not all accidents are of this nature, there are some who have led to discoveries of major break-through in different fields. Inventions ranging from our favorite potato chips to the life-saving penicillin, as well as some other discoveries make up our Top 10 Accidental Inventions.
10. Post-it Notes
For Art Fry, an employee at 3M, the Post-It Note may have literally been God-sent. In the 1970s, Fry was looking for a bookmark for his church hymnal, something that wouldn’t fall but wouldn’t the damage its pages. Incidentally, a colleague, Dr. Spencer Silver was able to develop a type of adhesive which was strong to stick to a number of surfaces but wouldn’t leave any residue. Something that could also be peeled off, yet re-attached. So Fry took some of Silver’s glue and applied it along the edges of his hymnal’s paper.
9. Potato Chips
It was said that potato chips originated from Saratoga Springs in New York. Resort hotel chef George Crum, being agitated from a customer who kept on sending back his French potatoes back for being thick, bland and soggy, decided to fry them until crunchy and seasoned it with lots of salt. Contrary to the reaction Crum was expecting, the patron liked it. From then on, it was made an addition to the hotel’s list of appetizers and has gained popularity since.
Plastic was first invented by Alexander Parkes, demonstrating it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition. The material was first called Parkesine, after its inventor. It was a material made from cellulose that when heated could be molded, retaining its shape when cooled.
Polytetrafluoroethylene was discovered by Roy Plunkett at Dupont research labs. He was working on Freon refrigerants when he and his colleagues accidentally discovered PTFE. The material was first marketed as DuPont Teflon in 1945. Its surface was so slippery, nothing stuck to it, making it the perfect material to use in cooking pans.
6. Smart Dust
How devastating would it be if your homework just blew up in your face? if you’re Jamie Link, it wouldn’t be. When she was finishing her doctoral work in Chemistry, one of the silicon chips she was working with exploded. However, she discovered the tiny pieces still worked as sensors. The invention, which was called smart dust won her the top prize at the Collegiate Inventors Competition in 2003. These sensors can be used to monitor a number of things, even tumor cells in the body.
What John Pemberton was trying to cure were headaches, not a sudden craving for something fizzy. Mixing together a number of ingredients, including cocaine, he was able to come up with what we now know as coke. The drink sold for only about 8 years in drug stores until it was fully marketed in bottles. And no, the ones sold now do not contain cocaine.
A couple of fatal accidents have led to the invention of dynamites. The Swedish chemist and engineer had to endure the death of his brother as well as some others involved in his efforts to stabilize nitroglycerin. After a few other mishaps and years of experimentation, he’s finally able to develop a formula that allowed explosives to be mixed with kieselguhr, a sedimentary rock mixture, without lessening its power.
What was originally meant to be a cure for high blood pressure and angina became the now popular drug for erectile dysfunction, viagra. When Pfizer’s Simon Campbell and David Roberts first administered drug UK-92480, they ought to find a cure for people who had various heart conditions, but soon realized the drug wasn’t effective. There were multiple reports though that the drug led to erections. Pfizer then, moved forward to learn about this unintended side effect and after a few trials, the Viagra was born.
2. Stainless Steel
Harry Brearly, an English metallurgist for a 20th century arms manufacturer, developed a gun barrel that does not develop rust. After testing his creation on various corrosives, including lemon, he knew that it would be perfect for cutlery.
Before leaving for a vacation, Alexander Fleming placed some bacteria to a petri dish. Expecting the bacteria to grow, he was still surprised to see mold growing on the dish upon his return. After close inspection, he realized that the mold released a byproduct which inhibited the growth of the staphylococcus, which he was studying then. This incident gave birth to the first ever penicillin.