Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. But that may not be necessarily true. Accidents happen all the time, and inventions can be their illegitimate children. Many discoveries and inventions were a product of human necessities. But the invention of many of the most ordinary things we use today was completely unintentional.
You may have heard stories about accidental inventions like Penicillin and Dynamite, which were completely revolutionary. But here is a list of 8 things from our everyday life that were invented completely by accident-
Okay, so this product also belongs to the “revolutionary invention” category. But Super Glue is the best example of how something unwanted can also become invaluable. Super Glue was an accidental invention by Dr. Harry Coover in 1942. He was working in Kodak Research labs, trying to develop an optically clear plastic for gun sights. In the process, Dr. Coover rejected a chemical called “cyanoacrylate” because it was extremely sticky. But later, he tested the chemical and found it to be incredibly strong. His new discovery could withstand almost a metric ton of pressure applied on a square inch of area. Ever since the super glue that we know today came into existence.
These extremely handy sticky notes were also a byproduct of rejected commodities. In 1970, a scientist working in 3M research labs named Spencer Silver invented a new adhesive. This adhesive was sticky and stuck to objects, but it didn’t have much strength. Hence everyone thought it was useless and they ignored it, but Spencer didn’t discard it. Later in 1974, another scientist named Arthur Fry was tired of having his markers keep falling from his hymn books in the church. So to solve this problem, he used Spencer’s adhesive to keep his markers in place. He was delighted with how the markers didn’t fall off, yet could be removed easily. Hence Post-it notes came into being.
The favorite breakfast of most of the world’s populace was an accidental invention by John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg. John Harvey was the superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. He imposed a diet of bland foods made out of wheat, barley, rice, and other whole grains on the patients. One day, when his brother and he were attending a conference, they left some cooked wheat to sit out. By the time they came back, the wheat had become stale but they still used it to make a dough, being on a budget. However, they found that instead of dough, the stale wheat produced flakes. The brothers toasted these flakes and served them to the patients, who really liked it. Then the brothers patented their discovery in 1895, and our favorite cornflakes were born.
The potato chips that we now love were an accidental invention by a cook trying to appease a stubborn customer. George Crum, a cook at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs is the one accredited with this immensely popular dish. In 1853, a particularly stubborn customer kept sending back his dish of fried potatoes, saying they were too thick and under-salted. Out of spite, Crum cut potatoes into paper thin slices, deep fried them and sprinkled lots of salt on them. But his joke on the customer backfired because the customer loved his new dish and asked for more. This new dish was now called Saratoga chips, and later other restaurants started serving them too. By and by, potato chips started being mass-produced by food companies and the rest is history.
This seemingly innocent variation to our tea brewing methods was also an accidental invention. Tea bags were invented by a New York-based tea importer named Thomas Sullivan in 1908. He once imported the tea leaves in small bags of silk to cut down on transport and other costs. But when the clients received these bags, instead of taking the leaves out, they dipped the entire bags in water. They were impressed by the innovative and hassle-free way of brewing tea, and tea bags came into existence. The tea bags we now use are made of paper or other synthetic materials. Still, kudos to Sullivan for his ingenuity!
If there’s one thing everyone has in their first-aid kit, it’s band-aids. But why would anyone invent them if bandages already existed? Well, this accidental invention was the by-product of a husband’s annoyance with his careless wife. In 1920, an American housewife named Josephine Dickson would keep cutting herself during household chores, and kept needing bandages. Her annoyed husband came up with an idea. He took some tape and gauze, and cut long strips out of the tape. Then he stuck a square of gauze in the middle of each strip. Now everytime Josephine cut herself, she would just have to take a strip and apply it on the wound. Later in 1924 Johnson and Johnson started manufacturing it nationwide, and voila, Band-aids!
Who hasn’t heard of Levi Strauss, the founder of our favorite Levi’s jeans? However, his mighty invention was never really intentional. In 1854, Levi arrived at San Francisco with the intention of starting a dry goods business. One day, upon inquiry, Levi showed a miner the canvas he was selling to make tents. The miner, however, insisted that he wanted pants that could withstand wear and tear from the mining work. Levi hit upon an idea and made pants out of the canvas, which the miners loved. Later, Levi substituted the canvas material with a French cloth called “Serge de nims” (now called denim), and the jeans we now wear were born.
The little blue pill that has changed so many lives in the past few decades was actually invented by complete fluke. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, was being tested as a cure for high blood pressure in Pfizer Labs in 1998. The drug didn’t do much for blood pressure. However, while testing for side effects, the scientists found that the male patients were getting firmer and better erections. So, with an open mind, they studied the drug for treatment of erectile dysfunction. The results were excellent, and the now immensely popular Viagra was born.
Some of you may be surprised that Coca-Cola was actually an alcoholic beverage used to cure nerves before it became a soft-drink. John Pemberton, an ex-army officer, and druggists invented a beverage French Wine Coca, as a substitute for morphine addiction. It was a beverage made with alcohol and Kola nut. The beverage was a great hit with upper-class socialites and businessmen as an energizing tonic. But after alcohol was prohibited in Europe in 1886, Pemberton substituted alcohol with carbonated water, and Coca-Cola was born. It was Asa Candler who popularised its mass production, but Pemberton is the real mastermind.
The moral of the article is- never discard or disregard anything around you. You never know when something will turn out to be an invaluable discovery!