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Greatest (accidental) inventions of all time

Our lives would certainly be different if none of these inventions were stumbled upon. Genius, particularly in these cases, is sometimes accidental...

August 28, 2012 1:01 by

  • Slinky - Let's start with something fun! The slinky, although seemingly a basic concept was a complete accident! You owe hours of staircase childhood fun to Richard James, a navy engineer who, in 1943 was attempting to create a spring to maintain the balance of sensitive instruments aboard the ship from being rocked and damaged. As he was fiddling around with his prototype, he accidentally knocked it over but as it fell to the floor he noticed that it gracefully returned to an upright position. The Slinky has since then sold 300 million pieces all over the world.

  • Saccharin - More commonly referred to as artificial sweetener. However sweet (and healthier) it may be though, the story of how it was stumbled upon is slightly icky! Constantin Fahlberg and Ira Remsen in 1879, took a break from their work in a messy laboratory to eat their lunch. Fahlberg neglected to wash his dirty hands and began eating, which it led him to notice an oddly sweet flavour in the food (his hands) and a brilliant discovery that is now found in pink sachets all around the globe.

  • Microwaves - Let's face it! Many of us are now extremely dependent on Microwaves to heat left over food, cook new food, make popcorn or even reheat our coffee. They are used in apartments, homes and offices all around the world and our lives would be more difficult without them. In 1945, Percy Spencer, an engineer and Raytheon was fiddling with a microwave-emitting magnetron. He felt an odd sensation in his trousers and realized that the chocolate bar he had in his pocket was melting.

  • Velcro - Would you believe me if i told you that Velcro was invented by a dog? Okay, well maybe I should rephrase. A dog had played a large part in contributing to the epiphany. Swiss engineer George de Mestral, while out for a hunting trip with his dog, was annoyed at how Burrs (seeds that stick to your clothing) were sticking to the dog's fur. He observed the seeds under a microscope, only to realize that they had tiny hooks that attached themselves. He experimented for years with various fabrics before he found one that "stuck".

  • Penicillin - As cliche as it may be, this list would be incomplete without one of the world's finest inventions. It remains to this day one of the most commonly used antibiotics and was the first to be used. It is also one of the most popular stories of accidental inventions. Alexander Fleming didn't clean up his workstation before going on vacation one day in 1928. When he came back, Fleming noticed that there was a strange fungus on some of his cultures. Even stranger was that bacteria didn't seem to thrive near those cultures. Penicillin was born!


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