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20 Accidental Famous Discoveries

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Phillip Phillip

on 20 December 2013

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Transcript of 20 Accidental Famous Discoveries

Penicillin
The antibiotics that kills off a variety of harmful bacterial infections was discovered due to unwashed dishes. Yes, Alexander Fleming took a vacation and accidentally left his petri dishes unwashed and when he came back, the stuff on the dish killed off all the bacteria around it. This discovery saved millions of lives and made million of dollars.
The Microwave
Percy Spencer was an American engineer who, while working for Raytheon, walked in front of a magnetron, a vacuum tube used to generate microwaves, and noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. After a few tests Spencer successfully invented the first microwave oven. In 1967, compact microwaves would begin filling American homes and made millions


Velcro
Coca-Cola
John Pemberton just wanted to cure headaches. Pemberton used two main ingredients in his hopeful headache cure: coca leaves and cola nuts. When his lab assistant accidentally mixed the two with carbonated water, the world's first Coke was the result. Over the years, Coke would tinker with the now-secret recipe. It made millions as a sugary drink.
20 Accidental Famous Discoveries that Made Millions of $'s
On one particular hiking trip in 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral found burrs clinging to his pants and also to his dog's fur. On closer inspection, he found that the burr's hooks would cling to anything loop-shaped. If he could only artificially re-create the loops, he might be on to something.

The result: Velcro. A combination of the words "velvet" and "crochet," the material had trouble gaining traction in the fashion industry.


X-Ray
Several 19th-century scientists toyed with the penetrating rays emitted when electrons strike a metal target. But the x-ray wasn't discovered until 1895, when Wilhelm Röntgen tried sticking various objects in front of the radiation - and saw the bones of his hand projected on the wall.
Potato Chips
Chef George Crum concocted the perfect sandwich complement in 1853 when - to spite a customer who complained that his fries were cut too thick - he sliced a potato paper-thin and fried it to a crisp. Such a simple idea made tons of money.
Silly Putty
In the early 1940s, General Electric scientist James Wright was working on artificial rubber for the war effort when he mixed boric acid and silicon oil. V-J Day didn't come any sooner, but comic strip image-stretching practically became a national pastime and made millions in the years to come.
Vulcanized Rubber
Rubber rots badly and smells worse, unless it's vulcanized. Ancient Mesoamericans had their own version of the process, but Charles Goodyear rediscovered it in 1839 when he unintentionally dropped a rubber-sulfur compound onto a hot stove. Rubber was never the same again, people actually want to use it.
The Slinky
A kiddo's favorite toy, the slinky, but how was it made? In 1943, Navy engineer Richard James was trying to figure out how to use springs to keep the sensitive instruments aboard ships from rocking themselves to death, when he knocked one of his prototypes over. Instead of crashing to the floor, it gracefully sprang downward, and then righted itself. The spring became a goofy toy of many childhoods—that is before every kid inevitably gets theirs all twisted up and ruins it. 300 million sold worldwide!
Play-Doh
Play-Doh was ironically created to be a cleaning product. The paste was first marketed as a treatment for filthy wallpaper — before the company that produced it began to go down the tubes. The discovery that saved Kutol Products — headed for bankruptcy — wasn't that their wall cleaner worked particularly well, but that schoolchildren were beginning to use it to create Christmas ornaments as arts and crafts projects. By removing the compound's cleanser and adding colors and a fresh scent, Kutol spun their wallpaper saver into one of the most iconic toys of all time — and brought mega-success to a company headed for destruction.
Teflon
Roy Plunkett, whose experienced immense frustration while inadvertently inventing Teflon in 1938. Plunkett had hoped to create a new variety of chlorofluorocarbons when he came back to check on his experiment in a refrigeration chamber. When he inspected a canister that was supposed to be full of gas, he found that it appeared to have vanished — leaving behind only a few white flakes. Plunkett was intrigued by these mysterious chemical bits, and began at once to experiment with their properties. The new substance proved to be a fantastic lubricant with an extremely high melting point — perfect at first for military gear, and now the stuff found finely applied across your non-stick cookware.
Post-It Notes
In 1970, a chemist named Spencer Silver was working in research laboratories trying to develop strong glue. His work resulted instead in an adhesive that wasn’t very sticky. When pulling apart two pieces of paper stuck together with that adhesive, Spencer discovered that the glue stuck either to one paper or the other. That seemed like a pretty useless invention. Four years later a colleague who was singing in the church choir was however hit by a brilliant idea. He used markers to keep his place in the hymn book, but they kept falling out. So he coated them with Spencer’s glue. As if by magic, they stayed in place yet lifted off without damaging the pages. The Post-it note was born. Today, it is one of the most popular office products available.
Cellophane
The idea of cellophane, the most popular clear plastic wrapper, jumped to the Swiss textile engineer Jacques Brandenberger’s mind when he was seated at a restaurant. After a customer spilled a bottle of wine onto the tablecloth, he went back to his laboratory convinced that he would discover a way to apply a clear film to cloth, making it waterproof. He conducted research with different materials and eventually applied liquid viscose to cloth. The experiment failed as the cloth became too stiff and brittle. Brandenberger however noted that the coating peeled off in a transparent film that might have other applications. By 1908 he developed a machine that could produce transparent viscose sheets which he marketed as cellophane. Sandwitches, here we come
Plastic
Although earlier plastics had relied on organic material, the first fully synthetic plastic was invented in 1907 when Leo Hendrik Baekeland accidentally created Bakelite. His initial quest was to invent a ready replacement for shellac, an expensive product derived from lac beetles. Baekeland combined formaldehyde with phenol, a waste product of coal, and subjected the mixture to heat. Rather than a shellac-like material, he inadvertently created a polymer that was unique in that it didn’t melt under heat and stress. The new thermosetting plastic was used for everything from phones to jewelry to clocks. It was also the first synthetic material to really stand on its own; it wasn’t used to mimic a natural material like ivory or tortoise shell, ushering in a era of new synthetic materials that has yet to subside.
Matches
In 1826, John Walker noticed a dried lump on the end of a stick while he was stirring a mix of chemicals. When he tried to scrape it off, voila, sparks and flame. Jumping on the discovery, Walker marketed the first friction matches as “Friction Lights” and sold them at his pharmacy. The initial matches were made of cardboard but he soon replaced those with three-inch long hand-cut wooden splints; the matches came in a box equipped with a piece of sandpaper for striking.
Chewing Gum
Thomas Adams was experimenting with chicle, the sap from a South American tree, as a substitute for rubber. After mounting failures, the dejected inventor popped a piece into his mouth.
Big Discovery: He liked it!
As a Result: Adams New York No. 1 became the first mass-produced chewing gum in the United States


Vaseline
Brooklyn chemist Robert Chesebrough was in Pennsylvania in 1859 and looking to establish himself in the oil industry. He was down an oil well when he discovered a gooey substance known by workers as ‘rod wax.’ Chesebrough noticed how the workers would use the goo to heal cuts and burns. The entrepreneurial-minded chemist took a sample home for experimentation. Soon he managed to extract a usable petroleum jelly and in 1872 he patented the process before setting up business. By the late 1880s Chesebrough was selling Vaseline to Americans at the rate of one jar per minute. International operations began as early as the 1870s when his company opened an office in London with subsidiaries in Spain and France. By 1911, it began opening plants and factories in Europe, Canada, and Africa. Chesebrough died in 1933, but his company continued to reap the rewards of his discovery for decades. Shortly before Chesebrough-Ponds was sold to Unilever in 1987, it was generating over $75m dollars in profits.
Super Glue
When WW2 was booming, Hary Coover wanted to make a clear plastic gun, but the outer part was just extremely sticky substance. It ended up being super-glue and sticks very well.
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