Every day, you probably use a few items that were originally invented by complete accident. It’s much more common than you realize for modern inventions to be discovered by accident. Experiments can go awry, leading researchers to discover that whatever they were attempting to make didn’t quite work… but had some other awesome applications. In fact, you’re probably using one of these right now.
1.) X-Rays: In 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays while performing an experiment with Cathode ray tubes.
2.) Smart Dust: Chemistry graduate students accidentally shattered a silicon chip, but noticed the parts were still sending signals. They called it “smart dust” and today they play a role in technologies used to attack and destroy tumors.
3.) Velcro: In 1941, a Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral found burrs clinging to his pants and realized that the burr’s hooks would cling to anything loop shaped. He just recreated the hooks/loops.
4.) Play-Doh: This was accidentally invented in 1955 by Joseph and Noah McVicker while trying to make a wallpaper cleaner.
5.) Slinky: In 1943, naval engineer Richard James was trying to develop a spring that would support and stabilize sensitive equipment on ships. After watching the spring fall, he got the idea for the toy.
6.) Post-Its: In 1974 3M employee Arthur Fry used “a useless sticky substance” the company created to hold bookmarks in his hymnal. They didn’t want to sell Post-It Notes at first.
7.) Fireworks: These were invented 2,000 years ago in China. According to legend, a cook accidentally mixed charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter, all items commonly found in a kitchen back then. The mixture burned and when compressed in a bamboo tube, it exploded.
8.) In 1905, 11 year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of powdered soda and water on the porch with a stir stick in the cup. That night, it froze. He named the resulting treat after himself, the epsicle. Nearly two decades later he went public with his snack and changed the name to Popsicle.
9.) Stainless Steel: In 1912, Harry Brearly was trying to create a gun barrel that would resist erosion. One experiment stayed shiny because it contained 12% chromium.
10.) Plastic: In 1907, Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland wanted to find a replacement for shellac and accidentally produced what he called Bakelite.
11.) Super Glue: In 1942 Dr. Harry Coover created cyanoacrylate, a substance that stuck to everything it touched a little too well. He thought it was a failure.
12.) Pacemaker: At Cornell University, Wilson Greatbatch was attempting to build an ocillator to record heart beat sounds in animals. He grabbed the wrong transistor and discovered the device had a rhythmic pulsing sound, like a human heart.
13.) Vulcanized Rubber: In the 1830s, Charles Goodyear created weatherproof rubber after years of experiments, even though many others wrote it off.
14.) Saccharin: Scientist Constantine Fahlberg accidentally carried some compounds from the lab home with him. He noticed his bread tasted strangely sweet even though he didn’t use sugar… it was because of those compounds.
15.) Teflon: Scientist Roy Plunkett was looking to replace refrigerants in modern refrigerators. One of the samples left a slippery, heat resistant resin which became Teflon coating.
16.) Modern Anesthesia: In the 1800s, several doctors realized that ether and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) inhibited pain, leading to modern anesthesia.
17.) Chocolate Chip Cookies: The owner of Toll House Inn, Mrs. Wakefield, was allegedly making chocolate cookies but ran ot of baker’s chocolate. She mixed in semi-sweet chunks and the rest is history.
18.) Dynamite: Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer, was trying to stabilize nitroglycerin. He noticed one day that the liquid, after leaking, was absorbed by the packing material making it safer.
19.) Silly Putty: During World War II, James Wright dropped boric acid into silicone oil while trying to make a synthetic rubber substitute. The result was a useless substance… that was sold as a toy.
20.) Radioactivity: In 1896, Henri Becquerel was working on an experiment using a uranium-enriched crystal. He noticed that crystal managed to “fog the plate” while he wasn’t even there and with his equipment put away.
21.) Penicillin: Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming returned to his lab after an absence, only to notice that a strange fungus was killing his bacteria. Penicillin was born.
22.) Microwaves: Percy Spencer, an engineer working for Raytheon, walked in front of a Magnetron he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. Later, he put together his first microwave oven.
23.) Coca-Cola: John Pemberton wanted to cure headaches. His recipes contained coca leaves and cola nuts. His lab assistant accidentally mixed the two with carbonated water… making Coke.
24.) Potato Chips: Chef George Crum created this snack in 1853 after a customer kept sending his potatoes back to the kitchen, saying they weren’t crunchy enough. Annoyed, the chef sliced them as thin as possible, fried them in hot grease, and doused them in salt. They turned out to be a hit.
25.) Corn Flakes: Keith Kellogg was assisting his brother who worked as a doctor at Battle Creek Sanitarium. One day, he accidentally left the bread dough sitting out. He decided to bake it anyway, resulting in a flaky snack.
(H/T List25) Hopefully your mind was blown by this list. Who knew something like Silly Putty was only invented because of a war? If any of these took you by surprise, share this list with others!