You know that pink packet of fake sugar that’s always sitting on the restaurant table? Well, as sweet as it is, you may be surprised to know where it came from. In 1879, Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist trying to find alternative uses for coal tar, came home for dinner after a long day of work and noticed that his wife’s biscuits tasted a lot sweeter than usual. After asking her about it, he realized that he hadn’t washed his hands after work, and the coal tar remnants had sweetened the biscuit.
Although most students would be a bit upset if their homework all of a sudden exploded in their face, Jamie Link, a graduate student at the University of California, made the most of the situation and ended up changing the world. After the silicon chip she was working on was accidentally destroyed, she realized that the individual pieces could still function as sensors. Today, they are used to detect everything from deadly tumors to biological agents.
In 1853, George Crum, a chef in New York, accidentally invented potato chips when an annoying patron kept sending his french fried potatoes back to the kitchen because they were soggy. In an attempt to teach the customer a lesson, Crum sliced them extra thin, fried them to a crisp, and drowned them in salt. To his surprise, however, the complaining customer actually liked what would become the very first serving of potato chips.
Although these days it’s almost common knowledge, this list wouldn’t be complete without Civil War veteran turned pharmacist John Pemberton and what he originally intended as nothing more than a medication for several ailments, such as opiate addiction and upset stomach. Instead, he invented one of the world’s most popular drinks. This is also why the original Coke actually did include cocaine on its list of ingredients.
In 1905, soda pop had just become the most popular drink on the market. 11-year-old Frank Epperson decided he wanted to save money by making his own at home. Using a combination of powder and water, he got pretty close but then absentmindedly left the concoction on his porch all night. Temperatures ended up dropping to below freezing, and when he came out in the morning, he found his mixture frozen with the stirring stick still stuck in it.