Accidents have a tricky way of happening to the best of us. Successful people have to deal with failure after failure before they are able to truly reach the top in their field – they’re the things that shape them, and all of us, into the people we are and will become. Choosing to look at these accidents as another way to the right outcome helps to make the proverbial lemonade – accidents don’t have to be bad things.
There are many times when an accident actually turns out to be a great success. There are time when one door closes, and another one opens, revealing surprise stepping stones to greater success. It is accidents and mistakes that make us, and bring us more success than we ever knew was possible.
This is especially true in the world of inventions. There are many inventions out there that were a result of calculated experiments and persistence, but there are at least as many that started off as a mistake. There are many inventions out there that we use everyday that we may never know of if these inventors didn’t look at their mistake as a success. Here in this article we will go over some of the most influential accidental inventions that changed the world that we live in today.
In 1929, Alexander Fleming accidentally created a drug that has saved countless lives: Penicillin. After a vacation, Alexander Fleming returned to find a petri dish full of bacteria with mold on it. He discovered that this mold was actually killing the bacteria. This accidental discovery went on to be one of the greatest antibacterial drugs in the world.
It even helped Alexander Fleming to earn a Nobel Prize. This drug is used during outbreaks and to protect vulnerable patients after routine surgeries, no less useful now that it was at its discovery almost 100 years ago.
The Microwave Oven
The microwave oven has revolutionized the way we cook and eat. It allows us to heat frozen dinner and leftovers at the push of a button, and many of us wouldn’t know a life without conveniences like microwaveable popcorn or instant oatmeal.
In the 1940s, the Raytheon company was working on anti-radar technology. They were using magnetron tubes to try to develop this technology. When one of the scientists noticed the microwaves were causing a candy bar in his pocket to melt, the idea of the microwave oven was first thought of. The scientist, Percy Spencer, went on to create a box in which microwaves could be contained for the purpose of heating up food. If it wasn’t for that melted chocolate bar, we may never have had microwaves in our homes today.
Plastic is quite possibly one of the most widely used accidental inventions of our time, used in everything from toys to aerospace technology.
How did it come to be? In 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland was trying to synthetically create shellac, which was only found in beetles. Instead of creating synthetic Shellac, Leo Hendrik Baekeland was able to mix together the original polymer that we know as plastic today.
Play-Doh is one of the favorite toys of young children, and has been for many years. The funny thing is that it wasn’t always a toy for kids.
Back in the day when homes were heated by coal, wallpaper would become terribly dirty. Cleo McVicker decided to invent a putty-based cleaner that could be rubbed against the wallpaper in order to remove the coal residue. His son started using this cleaner as modeling clay, and this is how Play-Doh was started. If Cleo’s son had never decided to play with his dad’s cleaning invention, we may never have Play-Doh today.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
In 1937, Ruth Wakefield and her husband operated the Toll House Inn. They would cook meals for their guests, along with many baked goodies. One day Ruth discovered that she didn’t have baker’s chocolate for her cookie recipe. She cut up a chocolate bar that she had on hand and hoped that the chocolate would melt like baker’s chocolate. Thank goodness the chocolate didn’t melt, or we wouldn’t have the world’s greatest cookie: chocolate chip.
George Crum was a restaurant owner in the late 1800s, a hardworking man who had the displeasure of serving snooty upper class customers who would come in and drive him up the wall.
One wealthy customer would always complain that the french fries were cut too thick. He would continually send them back to the kitchen time and time again. One day, George had just about enough of this. He cut the potatoes as thin as he possibly could, and then left them in the frier for as long as he thought it would take to ruin them and make them inedible. When he took out the overcooked thin french fries, he then soaked them in what he considered to be an unbearable amount of salt.
The move backfired. Or was a great success. Depends on how you look at it. The wealthy man actually loved the taste of this prank, and George Crum went on to add this new “potato chip” to the menu.
Post-it Notes are something that we use on a regular basis, yet many people do not know that they were created simply as an application for a new adhesive that had been discovered. Spencer Silver was a chemist working for the company 3M in the 60s.
The tape manufacturer was looking for a type of tape that could be used on paper, and then removed without ripping it. Instead of finding a tape, Spencer Silver found a way to turn paper into a tape itself. The new post-it note was now born. Simple, but innovative, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere. The hallmark of a great invention.
The Slinky is a simple toy, but it’s stuck around for a long time. It has been a mainstay at Christmas time and birthdays for many decades, and even adults get a bit of a thrill out of seeing a coil of metal slinking its way down a flight of stairs. The slinky was, however, not originally meant to be a toy.
Inventor and engineer Richard James was trying to find a spring that would help cushion precious instruments on Navy ships during World War 2, but when his prototype spring fell off of his table in the lab, he knew that he had something special. Instead of trying to market the spring as a tool for the navy, this spring went on to become one of the favorite children’s toys of our time.
Super Glue is a well known adhesive, as famous for the cartoon gags it appears in as it is for its ability to stick things together really well. For many repairs, all that is needed is a small dot of superglue and the job is complete.
Harry Cover was not looking to make a super adhesive when he discovered this glue. Cover was simply looking to make plastic lenses for gun sights. Luckily, others thought that this sticky glue would make a great product and it was later market as the super glue that we know today.
Its many uses, including applications in electronics and health, make this much more than a simple tub of glue. It’s a world-changing innovation.
Probably one of the most well known accidental inventions out there is Viagra. We all know what it does, and for those that need it, it is a gem. However, the chemists who created Viagra were originally just looking for a drug to help with hypertension and heart disease.
During testing, the chemists didn’t see any promising results in correlation to heart disease or hypertension, but they found some pretty promising results in other areas of the body. This drug has now extended the intimacy of couples into a much older age, as well as granted new hope to men with any number of conditions leading to erectile dysfunction. It might seem like a trivial product to some, but it’s a pretty big deal for the people who need it.