That “Eureka? Moment: Top 10 Accidental Inventions

Everybody knows the story of how Archimedes accidentally realized how to measure the volume of irregularly-shaped objects just by soaking himself in a tub. The story of how Alexander Fleming unintentionally discovered the bacteria-fighting properties of a certain mould, which would later inspire the invention of penicillin, is being taught in schools. These are just two of the most amazing accidental discoveries that most people are aware of. If you are blown away by how chance played a huge role in many accidental discoveries, you’ll be more whacked out by some of the greatest and funniest accidental inventions.

Whether it is an experiment that went utterly wrong but produced unsolicited results or a simple situation that squeezed the creative juices out of people, an accidental invention is surely something that never fails to introduce our jaws to the floor. Here is a list of the ten greatest accidental inventions in the past that caught mankind off-guard.

10. Ice Cream Cones

If you don’t believe in fate, ice cream cones will make you. Ice cream cones are a worldwide sensation today. Who would have thought that fate had a lot to do with its advent. The humble beginnings of these yummy cones can be traced back to 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to that time, ice cream was served on bowls.

But on one particularly sweltering day, two stores were standing near each other. One was selling ice cream while the other was selling zalabia, a kind of Persian wafer thin waffle. While the latter was not doing good business, ice cream was a hit at the fair. Then, the ice cream store ran out of dishes. Instead of panicking, the store owner came up with an excellent idea of buying zalabia from the other store, rolling them into cones and popping the ice cream on top. The rest is delicious history.

9. Potato Chips

If creativity is the root of all ice cream cones, annoyance is to blame for the creation of the good ol’ potato chips. In 1853, George Crum, a chef in Saratoga, New York, had a very hard-to-please customer. Cornelius Vanderbilt, a railway magnate, refused eating the fries that the chef served him. He repeatedly sent them back, demanding that the fries be sliced a bit thinner. The miffed Crum finally reached the boiling point so he sliced the potatoes so thin and fried them so that his fussy customer couldn’t eat them with a fork. The comedy is that Vanderbilt actually liked it. Soon, all the guests at the resort were craving for the crisp potatoes. Later, it officially became part of the menu as Saratoga Chips.

8. Post-it notes

In 1968, Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist was trying to improve adhesive tape. Unfortunately, he only managed to produce semi-sticky adhesive that is not even suitable for tape. Despite being so frustrated about the failure, he decided to set aside his invention, hoping that it could be of great use in the future but he didn’t know what.

Four years later, another 3M researcher, while singing with his church choir, needed something to keep his marker from falling out of his hymnal. Chewing gum would prove to be a little messy, so what he needed was something that would not stick permanently. Then, he finally saw the light when he remembered the weak glue that his co-worker invented a few years back. It was the beginning of the ubiquitous post-it note, which would later be created in 1980.

7. Superglue

If post-it notes do not stick to your memory that well, then superglue will. Actually, the mighty superglue was created in 1942, decades before post-it notes. Dr. Harry Coover was desperately trying to isolate a plastic for precision gun sights for handheld weaponry when he realized that cyanoacrylates polymerized when on contact with moisture, causing materials to bind together fast.

He almost completely forgot about it until six years later when he worked in a chemical plant in Tenessee. He realized the potential of this chemical to form a strong bind even without heat or pressure. Thus, superglue was born. If you think superglue did not have any groundbreaking use to humanity, you’re wrong. During the Vietnam war, soldiers took advantage of superglue in sealing wounds before they could be transported to a hospital.

6. Vulcanized Rubber

It was Christopher Columbus who introduced rubber balls from West Indies to Europe. Rubber would’ve been very delightful that time but it rotted, smelled horrible, got too rigid when cold and too sticky when warm and seemed utterly useless for practical purposes.

Three hundred years passed when Charles Goodyear finally stood up and tried hard to make it useful. For seven years, he attempted boiling rubber with magnesia, bronze powder, nitric acid and lime, but to no avail. Then, on a lucky day in 1839, he brushed off his hands a powder, which consisted of the rubber and some sulphur (sulfur). It fell into a hot stove. When the rubber melted, it reacted with the sulphur. This was the first vulcanized (vulcanized) rubber.

5. X-Ray Machine

In 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was trying to find out if he could see cathode rays escape from a glass tube that was completely covered with a black cardboard. He realized he couldn’t but he found something more interesting about it. He tried sticking various objects in front of it but what surprised him was that he saw the bones on his hand, instead, projected onto the wall. He realized that these rays could penetrate solids as well. Soon, he called these penetrated rays “x-rays.? Today, it is used as a standard medical tool.

4. Microwave Oven

In 1945, American engineer Percy Lebaron Spencer was standing by a functioning magnetron, a devices for producing microwave radio signals, when she noticed that the candy or chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. He was quick to conclude that it was the microwaves that caused it. Later, he started experimenting with so many items, bringing them near the magnetron one by one. He saw popcorn kernels start sputtering all over and witnessed an egg trembled harder until it cracked, spewing yolk all over. The microwave oven was born.

3. LSD

The first acid hit in the world must be in 1943, when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann touched a tittle of a chemical he had created for easing the pain of childbirth. That substance was lysergic acid diethylamide. During the initial analysis, he did not find anything interesting about it. He just catalogued the chemical and placed it in storage.

However, on one fateful Friday afternoon in April, he inadvertently absorbed a smidge of it when handling it without gloves. While riding his bicycle on the way back home, he observed extraordinary shapes with kaleidoscopic play of colors and uninterrupted streams of fantastic pictures. His invention of LSD truly gave him a different kind of high.

2. Pacemakers

In the 1950s, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, Wilson Greatbatch, was working with a number of cardiologists aiming to record heart sounds when he tried to get hold of a 10,000-ohm brown-black orange resistor. What he didn’t know was that he mistakenly grabbed the brown-black-GREEN resistor that is 100 times stronger than what he should have. When he plugged it into the circuit, it pulsed for 1.8 milliseconds and then it stopped. The pulse-stop-pulse process repeated. It was absolutely useless in measuring heart sounds but he realized that it was great for making heartbeats. This led to the invention of the pacemaker, used to regulate or stimulate heart muscle contractions. Who would have thought that a simple color mistake would result in a device that would save lives?

1. Viagra

If you’re someone with erectile dysfunction, you should thank the scientists and researchers of Merthyr Mydfil, a town in Wales. In 1992, they did some clinical trials to test a new drug that was originally intended to treat hypertension. The trials failed miserably as those involved did not see their blood pressure levels drop to normal. But as BP levels were up, they also noticed something else going up — you know what. The project would have been dumped has this side effect not risen to be noticed. Today, this drug is known as “viagra,? a gravity-defying drug used to produce a different kind of steel rod.

Yes, accidents do happen. Sometimes, terrible accidents claim hundreds or even thousands of lives just because a few made a simple mistake. The bright side, of course, is that there have been several accidents in history that have done the world a huge favor.


  1. Yes, accidents do happen. Sometimes, terrible accidents claim hundreds or even thousands of lives just because a few made a simple mistake. The bright side, of course, is that there have been several accidents in history that have done the world a huge favour.

    second the motion! Kudos!

  2. awesome and interesting info – I didn’t know about that viagra thing LOL.
    the invention of post-it note is cool – (secret lang – I’m a post it addict…he he)

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