Some people dedicate their entire lives to create something revolutionary. However, the people in this article have made discoveries that changed our world, and they did so accidentally. So who’s to say that you will not be the next great entrepreneur or inventor of our century? Just like these 11 people below, keep your eyes peeled and seize the opportunity when it presents itself.
A cook named Katie Wicks can be thanked for inventing chips in 1853 after she accidentally dropped a thin slice of potato into frying oil. However, because of patriarchal societies, historians credited her brother, George Crum, for this discovery for many years.
This incredibly fun toy wasn’t engineered on purpose. In fact, in 1943 an engineer named Richard James was working on springs to keep equipment more steady on naval ships when he accidentally got the idea for one of the most interesting toys to date. He accidentally knocked one of the springs off a shelf and watched it “walk”. And the ingenious toy named Slinky was born. Interestingly, his wife named the toy this from the dictionary, its meaning is graceful and sinuous in movement, line, or figure.
In 1991, British chemist Nicholas Terrett was named on the patent for Sildenafil Citrate, or better known as Viagra. Pfizer tested it initially as heart medication, but one side effect quickly became apparent – enormous erections. The rest of history.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
In 1938, an innkeeper named Ruth Graves Wakefield was making cookies and realized she was out of baker’s chocolate. She chopped up a block of Nestle chocolate, added it to the batter and noticed that the chunks didn’t melt. The smaller pieces of chocolate actually softened perfectly and thus the delicious chocolate chip cookie was born.
Joseph McVicker, head of a soap manufacturing company created a doughy clay to help with the removal of soot in homes that burned coal. However, as people switched to gas to warm their homes, the company was quickly moving into bankruptcy. By pure chance, McVicker discovered that his sister who was a school teacher, was using his dough as modeling clay in her classes. He realized his invention was better off as a toy rather than a cleaning product. Colored Play-Doh was shown on TV shows and sold at Macy’s, so he did end up cleaning up millions.
While doing research on hypothermia, an electrical engineer, John Hopps, made a discovery of a lifetime. He was attempting to use RF (radio frequency) heating to restore the temperature of the body. However, during his research he realized that if a heart were to stop beating due to cooling, it was possible for it to be restarted through artificial stimulation. This discovery led to the creation of the pacemaker in 1951 and it has helped millions of people since.
Kids are great inventors too, as in the case of the 11-year-old Frank Epperson. Epperson was playing with food and stirred powdered soda into a cup with a stick. However, he forgot about the cup and went inside the house for the night, leaving the cup outdoors. The next morning, he discovered the sweet goodness on a stick. The new dessert was named after himself – Eppsicle. However, after making it for his kids who called it Pop’s-icicle, it became Popsicle. In 1923, Epperson applied for a patent and his invention has been cooling us off every summer since.
Lazy cooks can thank Percy Spencer, an engineer who was working on a radar research project with a new kind of vacuum tube when he noticed something strange. A candy bar that he had in his pocket started to melt. He grabbed some unpopped corn kernels and sure enough, when held by the device, they began to pop.
Breakfast extraordinaires, John and Will Kellog, were trying to make granola by boiling grain when they discovered something new. They left a pot of grain they had boiled prior on the stove for several days. When they discovered it later, the mixture had become moldy but the resulting product was thick and dry. They experimented with this mixture further and were able to remove the mold and create Corn Flakes.
The powerful antibiotic that is a big reason why infectious disease is now one-twentieth of what it was just a little over a 100 years ago was discovered accidentally. A scientist by the name of Alexander Fleming was looking for ways to cure diseases but he didn’t discover a miracle drug until he discarded some of his experiments into the trash. Fleming took notice when a petri dish he had thrown out and contained mold was dissolving bacteria all around it. When he reproduced the mold himself, he discovered that it contained a very powerful antibiotic, now known as penicillin which is now used to treat anything from syphilis to tonsillitis.
Wilhelm Rontgen was experimenting with radiation and cathode-ray tubes when he found out that the radiation pierced right through the black cardboard that was covering the tube and causing chemicals a few feet away to glow. During follow-up experiments, he disovered that he produced a new type of radiation, which he called “X-radiation”. X-ray, as it became known, was able to penetrate many materials, including skin.