These accidental inventions were made by mistake but it turned out to be extremely brilliant. So, you see, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. If these inventors were fearful about creating something new, then we would never enjoy using these marvelous products. Hope this list will inspire you to get out there and make your ideas happen.
1. CORN FLAKES
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Invented by John and Will Kellogg
What it was meant to be: The Kellogg brothers were trying to boil grain to make granola.
How it turned out: In 1898, the brothers accidentally left a pot of boiled grain on the stove for several days while attending to other matters. The mixture turned moldy but the product that emerged was dry and thick. Through experimentation they eliminated the mold part and created corn flakes.
2. MICROWAVE OVENS
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Invented by Percy Spencer, an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation.
What it was meant to be: In 1946, Spencer was conducting a radar-related research project with a new vacuum tube.
How it turned out: Spencer realized that the candy bar in his pocket began to melt during his experiments. He then grabbed some popcorn kernels and place them into the machine. Sure enough they started to pop and he knew instantly that he had a revolutionary device created.
3. POTATO CHIPS
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Invented by George Crum, a chef at the Carey Moon Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York.
What it was meant to be: Really thin French fries as a mean to insult a demanding customer.
How it turned out: In 1853, a cranky diner complained about Crum’s French fries. They were too thick, too soggy and bland. The diner demanded thinner and crispier chips. Crum lost his temper, sliced the potatoes paper-thin and fried them until they were hard. To his surprise, the diner loved them.
4. THE SLINKY
Invented by Richard James, a naval engineer.
What it was meant to be: In 1943, Jones was trying to design a meter designed to monitor power on battleships.
How it turned out: James was working with tension springs when one of them fell to the ground. The spring kept bouncing from place to place after it hit the ground, and the slinky was born.
Invented by Patsy Sherman, a chemist for 3M.
What it was meant to be: Sherman was assigned to work on a project to develop a rubber material that would not deteriorate from exposure to jet aircraft fuels.
How it turned out: An accidental spill of a fluorochemical rubber on an assistant’s tennis shoe was the beginning to the invention of the product. After exhaustive attempts to remove the spill failed, Sherman moved her intention from removing the spill to using the spill as a protectant from spills.
6. X-RAY IMAGES
Image Source: Pri X-Ray
Invented by Wilhem Roentgen, an eccentric physicist.
What it was meant to be: Roentgen was interested in investigating the properties of cathodic ray tubes.
How it turned out: When shining light through the tubes he noted fluorescent papers in his lab were illuminated even though his machine had an opaque cover.
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Invented by John Pemberton, pharmacist.
What it was meant to be: Living in Atlanta in the 1880s, Pemberton sold a syrup made of wine and coca extract he called “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,” which was touted at a cure for headaches and nervous disorders.
How it turned out: In 1885, Atlanta banned the sale of alcohol, so Pemberton created a purely coca-based version of the syrup to be mixed with carbonated water and drank as a soda. The result was a perfect beverage for the temperance era – a “brain tonic” called Coca Cola.
8. POST-IT NOTES
Invented by Spencer Silver and Art Fry, researchers in 3M Laboratories.
What it was meant to be: In 1968,Silver made a “low-tack” adhesive instead of a strong adhesive at 3M. He couldn’t find a use for it.
How it turned out: While working away, Silver created an adhesive that was actually weaker than what already existed. It stuck to objects but could be pulled off easily without leaving a mark. Years later a colleague spread the substance on little pieces of paper to mark his place in his choir hymn book, and the idea was born.
Invented by Joseph and Noah McVicker, Kutol Products, a Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer.
What it was meant to be: Before World War II, coal was commonly used to heat homes, which left soot stains on walls. Noah and Joseph McVicker created the doughy material to rub the soot off wallpaper.
How it turned out: In the early 1950s, Joseph McVicker learned that his sister, a schoolteacher, used the material in her classroom as modeling dough. And thus, Play-Doh was born. The McVickers decided to market their nontoxic creation as a children’s toy. In 1955, they tested their product at nurseries and schools. A year later, they created the company Rainbow Crafts.
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Invented by the weather perhaps.
What it was meant to be: Bottled wine.
How it turned out: The climate was changing significantly during the 1490s, which had a dramatic effect on wine fermentation. Rather than the grape juice completely fermenting, the drop in weather caused the yeast to stop working too early and remain dormant until spring, when asecond round of fermentation would take place. This gap ultimately led to the formation of carbon dioxide in the wine, or as we know it, the bubbles! [Huffington]
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Invented by the Red Cross nurses.
What it was meant to be: Originally known as “Cellucotton,” these wadding pads were used during World War I to dress the wounds of soldiers.
How it turned out: Many Red Cross nurses found that the product also made great feminine care protection pads. In 1920, “Kotex” was born.
12. CHEWING GUM
Invented by Thomas Adams
What it was meant to be: Natural latex.
How it turned out: Adams was frustrated that his attempts to create a rubber replacement out of natural latex were unsuccessful that he put a piece in his mouth and noticed the flexible material was surprisingly very enjoyable to chew on. He began adding flavors and by 1888, the name “chewing gum” was coined.
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Invented by Frank Epperson.
What it was meant to be: Soda pop
How it turned out: In 1905, Epperson, then 11, was experimenting with different ways of making homemade soda pop when he accidentally left a batch sitting outside with a stir stick left in it. Temperatures dropped overnight, and the next morning he went outside to find the surprise frozen treat.
14. CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
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Invented by Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn.
What it was meant to be: Regular chocolate cookies.
How it turned out: Wakefield apparently ran out of her regularly used chocolate and had to dump in Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate chips instead. The chips did not melt as planned, but Wakefield’s disappointment did not last for long. In 1939, Nestlé introduced “Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.”
15. ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
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Invented by Constantin Fahlberg, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University.
What it was meant to be: In 1879, and Fahlberg was sitting in his lab, toying around with new uses for coal tar, to no great success.
How it turned out: Home from a long day at the lab, Fahlberg noticed that his wife’s biscuits were way sweeter than usual. He rinsed his mouth, wiped his mustache with a napkin, and found the napkin tasted sweeter, too. Even the water in his cup tasted syrupy. Then he did what would surely gross out any scientist passerby: He stuck his thumb in his mouth, then went back to his laboratory and tasted every beaker and dish in the lab until he found the one that contained saccharin. Perhaps one of the only times not washing your hands led to something useful?
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Invented by Sir Alexander Fleming, a scientist.
What it was meant to be: Fleming was searching for a “wonder drug” that could cure diseases. However, it wasn’t until Fleming threw away his experiments that he found what he was looking for.
How it turned out: Like anyone eager to go on vacation, Alexander Fleming left a pile of dirty petri dishes stacked up at his workstation before he left town. When he returned from holiday on September 3, 1928, he discovered most had been contaminated. Then, Fleming noticed that a contaminated Petri dish contained a mold that was dissolving all the bacteria around it. When he grew the mold by itself, he learned that it contained a powerful antibiotic, penicillin.
17. THE PACEMAKER
Image source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
Invented by John Hopps, an electrical engineer.
What it was meant to be: Hopps was conducting research on hypothermia and was trying to use radio frequency heating to restore body temperature.
How it turned out: During his experiment he realized if a heart stopped beating due to cooling, it could be started again by artificial stimulation. This realization led to the pacemaker in 1951.
18. SILLY PUTTY
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Invented by James Wright, an engineer at General Electric.
What it was meant to be: During World War II, the United States government needed rubber for airplane tires, boots for soldiers, and the like. Wright was trying to make a rubber substitute out of silicon, since it was a widely available material.
How it turned out: During a test on silicon oil in 1943, Wright added boric acid to the substance. The result was a gooey, bouncy mess. While he couldn’t find a practical application, the impracticality of Silly Putty is what makes it awesome.
Image source: Wikipedia
Invented by an unknown cook in China.
What it was meant to be: It is said the cook accidentally mixed three common kitchen ingredients – potassium nitrate or saltpetre (a salt substitute used in the curing of meat), sulphur and charcoal and set light to the concoction. The result was colourful flames.
How it turned out: The cook later on noticed that if the mixture was burned when enclosed in the hollow of a bamboo shoot, there was a tremendous explosion. After this fireworks were used for entertainment and became a staple part of marking special occasions, such as births, deaths, weddings, coronations or new years.
20. INK-JET PRINTERS
Invented by a canon engineer
How it was created: After resting his hot iron on his pen by accident, ink was ejected from the pens point a few moments later. This principle led to the creation of the inkjet printer.
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Invented by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer. Also the founder of Nobel Prize.
What happened initially: In efforts to stabilize nitroglycerin, an explosive liquid, Nobel and laboratory workers experienced several accidents – one of which ultimately proved fatal. An explosion in Stockholm, Sweden, left Nobel’s younger brother and a few others dead in 1864. No one knew how exactly this accident affected Nobel, but most suspect it further pushed him to find a solution to safely store explosive materials. With this new knowledge of the instability of nitroglycerin, Nobel continually tested methods to detonate and store explosives.
How it turned out: While transporting nitroglycerin, Nobel noticed that one of the cans accidentally broke open and leaked. He discovered that the material in which the cans were packed — a sedimentary rock mixture called kieselguhr — absorbed the liquid perfectly [source: Brunswig]. Since nitroglycerin is most dangerous to handle in its liquid form, the incident led Nobel to explore kieselguhr as a stabilizer for explosives. Nobel developed a formula that allowed the explosive to be mixed with kieselguhr without hindering its power. He patented his product in 1867, naming it dynamite, which revolutionized construction practices and the creation of explosives.
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Invented by Simon Campbell and David Roberts, two researchers working at the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
What it was meant to be: The two developed a drug they hoped would treat high blood pressure and a heart condition called angina.
How it turned out: The team administered the drug to patients in a trial and learned that it wasn’t as effective as researchers predicted. Yet as scientists looked at the side effects of the trial, they noticed multiple patients reporting that the treatment led to erections. With an open mind, researchers at Pfizer moved forward to learn more about this unintended side effect. Rather than using the drug experimentally to treat blood pressure and heart issues, the company launched a new clinical trial to use the drug for erectile dysfunction disorder.
Image source: Live Science
Invented by George De Mestral, an electrical engineer.
What happened originally: After returning from a walk with his canine companion, De Mestral noticed how perfectly cockleburs bound to his dog’s fur. So, with microscope in hand, he examined the bur closely. He discovered that the cocklebur was lined with numerous tiny hooks that could easily attach to the loops of his clothing and the fur of his dog.
How it turned out: De Mestral then toyed around with other materials, creating surfaces with hooks and loops to develop a stronger bond. In 1955, De Mestral settled on nylon as his material to perfect his accidental invention, calling it Velcro. Today we still use Velcro, or a similar product, in our daily lives.
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Invented by Crawford Long, William Morton, Charles Jackson and Horace Wells. These are the names mentioned as the founding fathers of anesthesia.
How it was discovered: In 1844, Horace Wells attended an exhibit and witnessed a participant injure his leg while under the influence of laughing gas. The man, whose leg was bleeding, told Wells that he didn’t feel any pain.
How it turned out: After his accidental discovery, Wells used the compound as an anesthetic while he removed his tooth. From there, anesthesia’s use during medical procedures and surgeries took off. Wells, Morton and Jackson began to collaborate and use anesthesia in dental practices, while Crawford Long used ether for minor surgeries.
25. STAINLESS STEEL
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What it was meant to be:
How it turned out:
26. VULCANIZED RUBBERS AND PLASTICS
Image source: Plastics Today
Invented by Charles Goodyear (who discovered vulcanized rubber) and John Wesley Hyatt (who invented celluloid)
How it happened: Goodyear combined rubber and sulfur and accidentally put it on the stove for a period of time. When he came back, he found a tough and durable material–created through a process eventually called vulcanization.
Inspired by a $10,000 contest to find a replacement for elephant ivory in billiard balls, Hyatt accidentally spilled a bottle of collodion, only to discover that when it dried it formed a flexible-yet-strong material. He didn’t win the contest (nor did anyone, for that matter), but by 1872 his brother Isaiah coined the term celluloid to describe what was becoming the first commercially successful plastic
Invented by Roy Plunkett
What it was meant to be: better refrigerator.
How it turned out: Plunkett wanted to combine a specific gas with hydrochloric acid. He gathered the desired gas (tetrafluoroethylene) but wasn’t quite ready to start experimenting. So he cooled and pressurized the gas in canisters overnight. But when he returned the next day, the gas was gone. The canisters weighed the same amount as when they were full, but nothing came out. Confused, Plunkett cut the canisters in half. The gas had solidified on the sides, creating a slick surface.
“Rather than discard the apparent mistake, Plunkett and his assistant tested the new polymer and found that it had some very unusual properties: it was extremely slippery as well as inert to virtually all chemicals, including highly corrosive acids,” writes DuPont in its corporate history. “The product, trademarked as Teflon in 1945, was first used by the military in artillery shell fuses and in the production of nuclear material for the Manhattan Project.”
While Plunkett invented Teflon, he didn’t come up with the idea of using it for cooking. About a decade after Plunkett sawed those canisters in half, a French engineer named Marc Grégoire introduced “Tefal” pans, the first to be lined in Teflon. The idea came from his wife. Before Tefal, Grégoire used Teflon on his fishing tackle to prevent tangling. But his wife realized that the nonstick surface would be perfect for cookware.
28. SUPER GLUE
Invented by Harry Coover, Eastman Kodak researcher.
What it was meant to be: Coover first came across cyanoacrylates (the chemical name for these überadhesives) in World War II. His team tried to use the material to create plastic gunsights. Too bad the cyanoacrylates kept sticking to everything. Coover dismissed the chemical and tried different approaches.
How it turned out: He came across the material again in 1951. This time, Kodak experimented with cyanoacrylates for heat-resistant jet airplane canopies. Again, the stickiness got in the way. But then Coover had an epiphany. “Coover realized these sticky adhesives had unique properties in that they required no heat or pressure to bond,” writes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a column from 2004. “He and his team tried the substance on various items in the lab and each time, the items became permanently bonded together. Coover – and his employer – knew they were on to something.” While Coover’s original patent called the new invention “Superglue,” Kodak sold the adhesive under the less-evocative name “Eastman 910.” “Later it became known as Super Glue, and Coover became somewhat of a celebrity, appearing on television in the show ‘I’ve Got a Secret,’ where he lifted the host, Garry Moore, off the ground using a single drop of the substance,” writes MIT.
29. ICE-CREAM CONES
Invented by: It’s a mystery. We don’t know who invented it but it was indeed invented by accident.
The history: In the late 1800s and early 1900s, ice cream prices dropped and the creamy dessert quickly became a more popular treat. Paper, glass, and metal were common materials used for holding ice cream. Then came the not-so-sanitary “penny licks.” Many vendors would scoop their flavor of the day into a glass and hungry buyers would pay a penny to lick the glass clean before returning it to the vender. Not only was this not the cleanest way to eat dessert, but also customers kept breaking the glass or “accidentally” walking away with them. In 1902, Antonio Valvona filed the first patent in Britain for an edible ice cream cup. The second came from Italo Marchiony, an Italian immigrant living in New York. However, these patents covered bowl, not cones.
How it was discovered: The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. The food was plentiful, and historians say there were more than 50 ice cream vendors and over a dozen waffle stands. With the heat, ice cream was the top seller – hot waffles not so much. But the waffles proved useful when all the ice cream vendors ran out of cups. Ice cream vendor Arnold Fornachou couldn’t keep up with demand and ran out of paper dishes. Ernest Hamwi, a vendor next to Mr. Fornachou sold “zalabia,” a waffle-like pastry. Because his zalabia wasn’t selling, Mr. Hamwi decided to help his neighbor by rolling up one of his waffle pastries and giving it to Fornachou who put ice cream in it. Then, the first ice cream cone sold.
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Invented by John Walker, an English pharmacist.
What it was meant to be: Nothing in particular.
How it turned out: In 1827, Walker had just finished stirring a pot of chemicals when he noticed that the stick he’d been using to stir the pot had a dried lump on one end. Instinctively, Walker tried to scrape the substance off the end of the stick. Although not containing phosphorous, the mixture of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch was reactive enough that when he dragged it across the floor, the stick burst into flame. The strikeable match was born!