12 Life Changing Discoveries And Inventions That Were Totally Accidental

The discoveries and inventions are the outcomes of devotion of the scientists who pursue innovation and findings. But many times a discovery or an invention happens just by an accident.

Accidental Discoveries And Inventions

Here is the list of such 12 life changing accidental discoveries and inventions.

1. Penicillin

Penicillin are a group of antibiotics used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria such as pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections, scarlet fever, and ear, skin, gum, mouth, and throat infections.

Accidental Discoveries

In 1928 Dr. Alexander Fleming returned from a holiday to find mould growing on a Petri dish of Staphylococcus bacteria. He noticed the mould seemed to be preventing the bacteria around it from growing. He soon identified that the mould produced a self-defence chemical that could kill bacteria. He named the substance penicillin.

2. Anesthesia

Anesthesia is a medical treatment that prevents patients from feeling pain during procedures like surgery, certain screening and diagnostic tests, tissue sample removal (e.g., skin biopsies), and dental work. It allows people to have procedures that lead to healthier and longer lives.

Accidental Discoveries

Crawford Long, William Morton, Charles Jackson, and Horace Wells are accredited for the unexpected discovery of anesthesia. These men discerned that in some cases, ether and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) inhibited pain in people under their influence.

In the 1800s, inhaling either of these compounds was somewhat trendy for both recreation and amusement. By witnessing and even partaking in these social events, often named as ‘laughing parties’ and ‘ether frolics’, anesthesia’s founding fathers learned more about how these experiences affected people’s perceptions of pain.

In 1844, Horace Wells attended an exhibit and witnessed a man injure his leg while under the influence of laughing gas. The man, whose leg was profusely bleeding, told Wells that he didn’t sense any pain. After this accidental observation, Wells used the compound as an anesthetic while he removed his own tooth and found that the process was painless.

3. The Microwave

Microwave ovens heat food using microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to radio waves. Microwaves have three characteristics that allow them to be used in cooking: they are reflected by metal; they pass through glass, paper, plastic, and similar materials; and they are absorbed by foods.

Accidental Discoveries
Microwave Oven

Percy LeBaron Spencer was working on magnetrons—high-powered vacuum tubes that generate short radio waves called microwaves—when he accidentally discovered microwave cooking. The engineer was doing his job as usual when he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. Quickly Spencer realized that it was the magnetrons that were causing this phenomenon.

4. Pacemaker

A cardiac pacemaker is a medical device that generates electrical impulses delivered by electrodes to cause the heart muscle chambers to contract and therefore pump blood. By doing so, this device replaces and/or regulates the function of the electrical conduction system of the heart.

Accidental Discoveries
Heart Pacemaker

An adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Buffalo, Wilson Greatbatch accidentally invented the pacemaker. When working on building equipment intended to record heart sounds, the scientist used the wrong transistor and discovered that instead of recording sounds, his device gave off an electrical pulse, mimicking that of the heart. Greatbatch presented his invention to William Chardack, a surgeon at Buffalo’s Veterans Administration Hospital, and together the two were able to successfully control a dog’s heartbeat and, later, a human’s.

5. X-Rays

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to visible light. Unlike light, however, x-rays have higher energy and can pass through most objects, including the body. Medical x-rays are used to generate images of tissues and structures inside the body. If X-rays travelling through the body also pass through an X-ray detector on the other side of the patient, an image will be formed that represents the “shadows” formed by the objects inside the body.

Physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was in his laboratory in Wurzburg, Germany, experimenting on a vacuum tube covered in cardboard when he noticed a mysterious glow emanating from a chemically coated screen nearby. Confused and intrigued, he named the new rays causing this glow X-rays due to their unknown origin—and after playing around some more with the new rays, he discovered that putting his hand in front of the glow allowed him to see past his skin to his bones, thus leading to the world’s first X-ray.

6. Matches

A match is a tool for starting a fire. Typically, matches are made of small wooden sticks or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by friction generated by striking the match against a suitable surface.

Accidental Discoveries

A chemist John Walker discovered what are now matchsticks when he accidentally scraped a stick coated in chemicals across his hearth and found that it caught fire. Walker’s “Friction Lights,” as he called them, were originally made out of cardboard, but eventually he switched over to using wooden splints and sandpaper.

7. Safety Glass

Safety glass is glass with additional safety features that make it less likely to break, or less likely to pose a threat when broken. Common designs include toughened glass, laminated glass, and wire mesh glass. Wire mesh glass was invented by Frank Shuman.

A scientist named Edward Benedictus was working in his lab when he accidentally knocked over a flask. However, when Benedictus looked down, he noticed that rather than breaking into a million little pieces, the glassware had actually just cracked slightly while maintaining its shape. After looking into it a bit further, the scientist learned that what had kept the glass together was cellulose nitrate coating the inside of the glass—and thus, safety glass was created.

8. Teflon

Teflon is used in making non-stick cookware. It is used in making an anti-friction device. It is used for coating medical appliances (surgical devices). Due to its high resistance to corrosion, it is used for coating the lining of laboratory appliances.

Accidental Discoveries

The man who discovered the product—Roy J. Plunkett—did so completely by accident. The scientist was working at the DuPont Company’s Jackson Laboratory researching refrigerants (which help to supply air conditioning and refrigeration) when he noticed that some of his gas had turned into a white power. After some testing, Plunkett concluded that the substance was heat-resistant with low surface friction, giving it the perfect properties for its many uses we see today.

9. Dynamite

Dynamite is a powerful explosive used in blasting and mining. 

Accidental Discoveries

Though the explosive substance nitroglycerin was invented by Ascanio Sobrero, it was Alfred Nobel who used it to make dynamites. While in Paris, Nobel began to experiment with nitroglycerin, and eventually he accidentally found a way to tame the substance by mixing it with kieselguhr—though in the process, many people lost their lives, including Nobel’s brother Emil.

10. Quinine

Quinine is used for the treatment of malaria and associated febrile states, leg cramps caused by vascular spasm, internal hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and pleural cavities after thoracoplasty. 

Quinine was allegedly discovered by a South American Indian. While suffering from malaria, the man accidentally consumed some cinchona bark—thought to be poisonous—via a pool of water, and miraculously he started to feel better almost immediately.

11. Safety Pin

The safety pin is a variation of the regular pin which includes a simple spring mechanism and a clasp. The clasp serves two purposes: to form a closed loop thereby properly fastening the pin to whatever it is applied to, and to cover the end of the pin to protect the user from the sharp point.

Accidental Discoveries
Safety Pin

The inventor Walter Hunt was sitting at his desk trying to figure out a way to pay off some debts when he started to futz around with some wire. As he played around with the scrap of metal, he discovered that when coiled, it could clasp to itself and unclasp again.

12. Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is a pliable transparent plastic material used for packing fragile items. Regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres provide cushioning for fragile items. 

Accidental Discoveries
Bubble Wrap

Engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes did invent bubble wrap on purpose—but when they made it, the intended use for the product was all wallpaper, not as packing material. However, when their bubbly wallpaper proved to be unsuccessful, the two entrepreneurs decided to pivot and market their product instead as greenhouse insulation and later, as protective packaging.

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