As it turns out, some rare and lucky individuals have invented things by accident, some of which turned out to be things we now depend on all the time. People who might have been trying for something particular and stumbled upon a medical marvel, technological breakthrough, or even — a boner pill . For those people, life is forever changed by their calamities, and many of them are responsible for our modern comforts.
In my case, however, accidents usually result in a lot of regret if not total embarrassment. I might or might not have accidentally walked into the men's restroom at work — and ran into my supervisor. I have strolled down Fifth Avenue with my zipper wide open thinking people were looking at me because I had a fierce walk. I have beelined straight into a glass door inside of a "Hall Of Mirrors" at a state fair. Come to think of it, all of my accidents revolve around walking. I should look into that...
Luckily for us, other people have had accidents that we are benefiting from every day. Sure, those folks might have been embarrassed at first, but they turned that embarrassment into something special. That's the lesson I choose to take away from all of this. Be proud of your mistakes because you never know if they will end up being your greatest strengths. Maybe walking into that glass door inspired a small child watching it go down to write an amazing short story? Maybe I am the reason why Tina Fey is so funny! Ignore the logic of time for that last one. Just sit back and enjoy the following accidental inventions.
Ah, velcro! The material that used to make putting on shoes as easy as ripping off a bandage. The origin of this amazing sticky invention comes from plants. A Swiss engineer named George de Mestral examined cockleburs under the microscope after finding some clinging to his clothes after a walk. The plant used a system of hooks to cling onto material. Using that method, it took Mestral eight years to develop velcro.
Alfred Nobel was known for building buildings and bridges in Sweden. His work led him to start to develop more efficient ways to clear away rock formations. In 1886, Nobel dropped nitroglycerin on the floor and noticed that instead of exploding, it got absorbed by the sawdust. Soon, he used the mixture of surrounding earth containing silica and other ingredients to stabilize the nitroglycerin.
Penicillin is one of the biggest medical discoveries ever. And it was a total accident. Alexander Fleming was known for being careless when conducting laboratory studies. His carelessness led to mold growing on a culture he was working on while he was away on vacation. When Fleming returned he noticed that the mold juice was killing harmful bacteria around it. The rest is medical history. Don't you love it when your carelessness actually serves you well sometimes? If only this would happen to me more often.
4. Lifetime Running Battery
This one is a very recent accidental discovery which goes to show you that sometimes playing around in a lab is monumental. A researcher named Mya Le Thai was tinkering about the University of California Irvine lab, and decided to coat gold nanowires in manganese dioxide and cocoon them in a Plexiglas-like gel. The thin gel allowed it to charge and discharge a battery an unlimited amount of times without damaging the delicate wires. This discovery could have huge impacts on earth's energy consumption.
5. Corn Flakes
Not every invention has to be technological or related to medicine. Sometimes, even food gets invented by accident. The Kellogg brothers were running a successful sanitarium and cooking wheat products that substituted coffee, among other things. One day they were called away, and when they returned they noticed that the wheat had become stale. Instead of throwing it away, they cooked it anyway. The results were flakey dough that makes up modern cereal.
Have you even considered a world where you cannot cook without a microwave? I haven't. Microwaves were responsible for my entire college diet and I am not ashamed to admit it. In 1945, Percy Spencer invented this common kitchen appliance when he noticed that a candy bar melted when exposed to the waves. The rest is history.
Wilson Greatbatch had left the Navy and was working on an invention that would record heart sounds. When he accidentally pulled the wrong resistor out, he noticed that his device started to give off a rhythmic pulse. That led to a two year process of developing a prototype that has been implanted in humans and saved lives.
Originally people were testing this drug out as a cardiovascular drug and for its ability to lower blood pressure. Patients didn't want to give it back because they noticed they got erections that lasted longer and were firmer. Thus, the little blue pill was born.
9. The Pap Smear
Dr. George Nicholas Papanicolaou was just examining vaginal fluid in order to observe the chemical changes in women during their menstrual cycle. He noticed that one of his patients had cervical cancer by observing the abnormal cells under the microscope. Basically, Dr. Papanicolaou learned that early cervical cancer is easily detectible with a simple test.
Horace Wells and his wife observed a demonstration of laughing gas. Wells noticed that even though one of the demonstrators injured his leg during the performance, he did not feel any pain. Wells later used this gas at his dentistry practice and found a way to have pain-free dentistry.
Two German doctors, Joseph von Mering and Oscar Minkowski, removed a dog's pancreas while studying its role in digestion. They noticed that flies were drinking the dog's urine, and made the connection between the pancreas and diabetes. Then Frederick Banting and Professor John MacLeod were the ones who discovered the substate of insulin, building off of the original discovery.
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