Ice Cream Cones
Although ice cream had been served on dishes for years, it wasn’t until the 1904 World’s Fair that the ice cream cone was born. An ice cream stall at the fair was doing so well that they were quickly running out of plates while the neighboring Persian waffle stall was hardly selling anything. The two stall owners then had the idea of rolling up the waffles, plopping the ice cream on top, and voila! The ice cream cone was born.
If you have ever cooked an omelet, you can thank Roy Plunkett, a chemist who worked for DuPont in the early 20th century for accidentally stumbling across a non-reactive, no stick chemical while experimenting with refrigerants. Dupont quickly patented it, and today we know it as Teflon, the coating on your pan that keeps your eggs from sticking.
Charles Goodyear had spent ages trying to find a way to make rubber resistant to heat and cold. After a number of failed attempts, he finally stumbled across a mixture that worked. Before turning out the lights one evening, he accidentally spilled some rubber, sulfur, and lead onto a stove, resulting in a mixture that charred and hardened but could still be used in shoes and tires.
In the early 1900’s, shellac was the material of choice when it came to insulation, but due to the fact that it was made from Southeast Asian beetles, the material was not cheap to import. For this reason, chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland thought he might be able to make some money by producing an alternative. What he came up with, however, was a moldable material that could be heated to extremely high temperatures without being distorted, also known as plastic.
In 1896, physicist Henri Becquerel was trying to get fluorescent materials to produce X-rays by leaving them in the sun. His experiment, however, suffered a week of cloudy, overcast skies. After leaving all of his materials in a drawer, he returned one week later to find that the uranium rock he had left there had managed to imprint its image on a nearby photographic plate without any exposure to light.