Fun Facts About Accidental Inventions

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Over the years, there have been some pretty amazing creations. Many of the greatest inventions were created by experts who worked tirelessly to get them just right. There are some other inventions that weren’t created on purpose.  Had these accidents never occurred, we might not have some of the great inventions that we have today.

Fireworks

People love to watch the fireworks on holidays such as the 4th of July, New Years, and other important days. If it weren’t for the Chinese, we wouldn’t have fireworks. Around 2,000 years ago, China was experimenting with a combination of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur. This combination caused an explosion, resulting in fireworks. Had they never experimented with those explosive items, holidays would probably look a lot different.

Velcro

Velcro is one of the simplest inventions, and can be used to attach two things together with ease. One of the most common places that we use Velcro is on shoes and on the pockets of cargo pants. The idea for Velcro came to a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral when he was out hunting with his dog in 1948. While walking in the woods, he noticed that he had burrs stuck to his socks and his dog’s fur. When George got home, he pulled the burrs from his socks and looked at them under a microscope. He noticed that they consisted of tiny hooks that helped the burrs stick to fabric and fur. George realized that if he could make something similar to a burr, he could invent something amazing. For years, George experimented with many different textiles. He finally made some progress when nylon was invented, and he discovered that he could use the nylon to create artificial burrs that he later called Velcro. For years, people didn’t care much about George’s invention. It wasn’t until 20 years after he invented it that NASA started using it because it was easy to stick and rip. When NASA took notice, the rest of the world did as well. The rest is history.

Shatter-Proof Glass

Shatter-proof glass was accidentally invented in 1903 by a French chemist named Edouard Benedictus. Edouard was working in his lab one day mixing chemicals in a flask. When he accidentally knocked the flask on the floor, he expected it to shatter into hundreds of pieces. When it didn’t, Edouard was shocked. He picked up the flask and went through his notes to see what was in the flask before it broke. He noted that plastic cellulose nitrate was in the flask before it fell, which prevented it from shattering on impact. Edouard knew immediately that he had invented something great. He went on to develop Safety Glass, which is mass-produced today. If it weren’t for Edouard, your vehicle’s windshield would be a serious hazard if you were in an accident.

Super Glue

Super glue was invented by a man named Dr. Harry Coover. In 1942, Harry was trying to create a new sight for a precision rifle, but he failed. The substance he created called cyanoacrylate, stuck to everything. Harry gave up and moved on. Six years later, he was working on an experimental design for new airplane canopies. Again, he failed because of the cyanoacrylate. This time, he thought that he might have something special. Harry realized that he created a glue that could create an incredibly strong bond between two items, and no heat was necessary. In 1958, Harry applied for a patent for his glue and called it Super Glue. Today, it is sold all over the world.

Tea Bags

In the early 1900s, people were using metal tea infusers to make their tea. In 1908, an American tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan sent samples of his tea to customers in silken bags. The customers who received the tea believed that the silken bags were supposed to replace the metal tea infusers, and they put the bags right into their teapots. Not long after, Thomas received comments from customers saying that the silk’s mesh was too fine. This gave Thomas an idea. He started sending the tea out in bags made of gauze, and the first tea bag was made. During the 1920s, the popularity of these tea bags exploded, leaving metal tea infusers obsolete.

Penicillin

Life before the invention of antibiotics was very short. Infections were very common, but without a cure; even the most minor infection was a death sentence. In 1929, a bacteriologist named Alexander Fleming was planning to go on vacation. Before leaving for his trip, he forgot to cover a petri-dish of Staphylococcus that he was cultivating in his lab. When returning to his lab after vacation, Alexander realized that mold in the dish killed most of the bacteria. Alexander identified the mold as Penicillium notatum. When he saw what it could do, Alexander began experimenting to see if it would kill other bacteria. Soon, he was giving it to small animals to test, and they weren’t getting sick. Ten years later, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain picked up where Alexander left off. They managed to isolate the substance and create Penicillin. For their efforts, Alexander, Howard, and Ernst all won Nobel Prizes. Had Alexander never accidentally left the cover off the dish before his vacation, who knows how long it would have taken to create antibiotics.

The Microwave Oven

The microwave was invented by Percy Spencer, a man who had a tough life. At just 18-months-old, Percy was an orphan. When he was 12, he was taken out of school to work in a paper mill. After serving in World War II, Percy was known as an electronic genius. He was messing around with a microwave-emitting magnetron and saw that his pants were burning. He had a chocolate bar in the pocket and discovered that it had started to melt. Percy realized that he was onto something big, and eventually, he invented the microwave oven. The next time you heat up a bowl of soup in minutes, you can thank Percy.

Dynamite

Nitroglycerin is the main component in dynamite, and it was invented years before dynamite. The problem with nitroglycerin was that it was incredibly unstable, and could not be moved without disastrous results. Alfred Nobel knew this and wanted to find a way to transport nitroglycerin safely. While trying to transport the nitroglycerin, a can fell off the crate and spilled all over the nitroglycerin. Alfred noticed that the clay in the can was Kieselguhr, and it absorbed the nitroglycerin. This was when dynamite was born.

Viagra

In 1998, the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, wanted to create a medication to cure Angina Pectoris, which is a condition of spasms of the coronary arteries. They developed a pill called UK92480. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. When they went back and tried again, they noticed the pill they created caused long-lasting erections. They realized that this could be a good thing, and they called the pill Viagra. Today, seven Viagra tablets are sold worldwide every second. This equals to about 604,800 pills each day.

New inventions are created every day.  Now you know that many of them are probably not created on purpose. But the best thing to learn from this is that even if you fail at one task, your failure may lead to success somewhere else!

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