Accidental inventions that changed the world


This article is part of the ‘inventions’ series. For a previous post click here.

It is incredible to see how many things happen just because of a mistake. And whilst some lead to horrific consequences, others change the lives of many people for the better. From the microwave to car tires, let’s see what else we owe to luck and fortune.

  1. The microwave

How can you accidentally invent a microwave, – you might ask. Well, the engineer responsible for this kitchen must-have product, Percy Spencer, was working with a microwave-emitting magnetron back in 1945 when he realised that the chocolate bar in his pocket has melted. It didn’t take a genius to understand what caused it and that put a beginning to the microwave oven development.

  1. Super Glue

The first time super glue was created it was abandoned for 6 whole years because no one thought of its potential applications. Dr. Harry Coover was working on a new substance for a high precision gun sight in 1942 and thought he failed miserably as it stuck to everything it touched. And only six years later when he accidentally developed a similar sticky substance again he realised it creates strong bonds between objects without any heat. Coover applied for a patent and 16 years after the initial discovery the super glue finally made it to the store shelves.

  1. Teflon

If you cook without oil you know what we are talking about – the non-stick frying pans. In 1938 an engineer called Roy Plunkett was experimenting with chlorofluorocarbons – he left a canister full of gas in a refrigerator room and when he came back to check upon it the gas has disappeared leaving a few white flakes at the bottom. After working on their properties Plunkett found the new substance to have a high melting point and be perfect for weaponry, and later for kitchen cookware.

  1. Vulcanised rubber

After multiple attempts to create rubber that would be resistant to cold and heat, a scientist Charles Goodyear accidentally spilled some rubber, sulphur and lead onto a stove resulting in the discovery he was working on for so long.

  1. Stainless Steel

Many scientists have tried to make steel rust-free but just one of them succeeded, and only by a mistake. A British metallurgist Harry Brearly was initially working on a rustproof gum barrel, and after several failed tries we realised one of those fails didn’t rust and since his hometown, Sheffield, was known for manufacturing cutlery, he immediately saw potential in what he later called ‘stainless steel’.

SEE ALSO: 5 greatest engineering advancements of the 21st century

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