Wilson Greatbatch was an engineer trying to build an oscillator for recording the sounds of the heart beating. While assembling his device, he accidentally grabbed the wrong resistor, which caused it to give off a steady pulse. After two years of research and fine tuning, Greatbatch then debuted the implantable pacemaker, saving countless lives.
Percy Spencer was an engineer working on radar in 1945 when he noticed that a candy in his pocket had melted. After realizing that microwaves were responsible, he began to experiment with them. Appropriately, the first food ever cooked with microwaves was popcorn and in October of 1945, the microwave was patented.
Ruth Graves Wakefield was the owner of the Toll House Inn, located in Whitman, Massachusetts. It is said that she was making chocolate cookies when she ran out of baker's chocolate and tried to substitute it with chunks of semi-sweet chocolate. The idea was that the chocolate would melt into the cookie and spread. Obviously, this did not happen and she ended up with cookies full of chocolate chunks. They were an immediate hit.
Sir Alexander Fleming was experimenting with staphylococci in 1928. After accidentally leaving out a sample overnight, he decided to take a look and discovered that a ring of mold had partially destroyed the bacteria. It took another 13 years of research, but the mold and fungi were eventually refined into penicillin.
George de Mestral returned from a hunting trip to find numerous burs stuck to his clothing. After painstakingly removing them, he decided to find out why they hooked to clothing so easily. Upon closer examination, de Mestral realized that the burs contained tiny organic hooks and that his clothing fibers acted as loops. Taking this principle and applying it to fabric, de Mestral invented Velcro.
Play-Doh was originally developed as a material used to remove coal stains from wallpaper. The rise of natural gas for home heating led to a steep decline in the need for such a product. Out of desperation, its creators the McVicker family examined their customers uses and discovered that their product was being used to build Christmas ornaments by small children.
George Crum was a cook at Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York in the mid 1800s. Legend has it that Crum repeatedly had the potatoes he had cooked sent back by an annoyed diner. To get back at him, Crum sliced the potatoes razor thin and salted them before sending them back. To Crum's complete surprise, the guest loved them and the "saratoga chips" as they were then known became world famous.
Wilhelm Röntgen was a German physicist in the late 1800s. He was conducting experiments using cathode rays and crookes tubes, when he noticed that the barium platinocyanide screen he had intended to use in an experiment was glowing, despite having not made direct contact with his experiment. He continued researching and within two weeks had taken the first X-Ray, that of his wife's hand.
Richard James was a mechanical engineer working on springs that could stabilize sensitive instruments aboard boats in rough waters. While in his workshop, he accidentally knocked one of his springs over and watched it "walk" across the table, over a stack of books and down to the floor, before resetting itself. James then had the idea to market his springs as a toy and after a single demonstration, his entire stock sold out within 90 minutes.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg advocated the eating of bland foods for good health. He believed that sugars and spices were bad for you. One day he and his younger brother accidentally left out some cooked wheat which became stale. Upon their return they processed it anyway due to being low on funds. What emerged were flakes which they then toasted and served. The flakes were instantly popular among the patients at Kellogg's hospital and he patented them a year later.
Frank Epperson is the inventor of the popsicle. He originally called them "Epsicles" but sold his interest in the product in the 1920s and they were rebranded as popsicles. Epperson claims to have invented the popsicle accidentally at age 11 by leaving a glass of powdered soda and water with a mixing stick out on his porch on a freezing night.
At the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, ice cream vendor Arnold Fornachou was having trouble keeping up with demand, and had run out of all his paper plates. The vendor next to him, Ernest Hamwi, sold "zalabia," a waffle-like pastry. In a brilliant stroke of cooperation, Hamwi sold Fornachou his pastries that could hold scoops of ice cream, and the combination was an instant success.
Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to create a super-strong adhesive. He completely failed at this, instead producing a pressure-sensitive adhesive. Silver worked at 3M and shared his idea with multiple employees in an attempt to find a use for it. Arthur Fry, a fellow employee, noticed that he could use the adhesive to stick a bookmark in a book. Thus, the Post-It was born.
John Walker was set on finding a means of creating fire quickly and easily. He had tried mixing numerous chemicals, but none were stable enough for his needs. While mixing yet another chemical, the tip of a stick came into contact with the substance and when it was accidentally brushed across his fireplace, it ignited from the friction.
Viagra was originally synthesized as a medicine for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). During testing trials it was noted as not having much of an effect on hypertension but having an acute effect on something else. Pfizer quickly decided to market it as an erectile dysfunction medicine and the rest is history. Yes, definitely history and not yours or mine.
Edouard Benedictus was working in his lab in 1903 when he mistakenly knocked a flask to the ground. The flask shattered, but did not come apart. After a close examination, Benedictus concluded that the glass had been coated in a layer of cellulose nitrate, which held it together and safety glass was born.
Silly Putty was born out of the necessity to ration rubber for the war efforts during World War II. Two separate inventors independently discovered that boric acid when combined with silicone oil yielded a rubbery, bouncy substance. Neither found a use for it, but toy store owner Ruth Fallgatter thought it could be marketed as a kind of toy. She brought it to the attention of Peter Hodgson, a marketing consultant who had the bright idea to sell it in plastic eggs. 250,000 eggs were sold in its first three days on the market.
Researcher Dr. Harry Coover Jr. and a team of scientists were trying to find a material with which they could construct clear plastic gun sights during World War II. Instead, they created an adhesive that stuck to everything it touched. He promptly forgot about it until nine years later when he accidentally tested it again. This time, he brought it to his bosses and Super Glue hit the market in 1958.
In 1965, James Schlatter was experimenting with various chemicals in an attempt to create an anti-ulcer drug. He ended up creating Aspertame, but its usage as a sweetener was only discovered when he licked his finger to pick up a piece of paper and accidentally tasted his chemical.
He clearly never listened to his mother's advice to keep his fingers out of his mouth.
Cheese actually predates recorded history. Through evidence it is postulated that it was accidentally invented between the years 8000 and 5,500 BCE. This was around the time that sheep were domesticated (and thus used to create items for humanity).
Historians speculate that someone must have gone out for the day with milk stored in a pouch derived from a sheep's stomach. The sun warming the pouch caused it to mix with the residual stomach acids, including rennet, which turned the milk into curds and whey, from which cheese was then synthesized.