Humans are responsible for a host of accidental inventions. It makes sense when you think about it. As humans, we’re essentially walking accident-machines. Some of these accidents are simple – such as stubbing our toes on the coffee table or tripping on our own shoe laces – and some are major – such as instigating an avalanche while skiing. But then there are the accidents which revolutionize our world. Accidents that gift humanity with an illusive piece of a puzzle resulting in an extravagant masterpiece. It’s here this list will focus on – accidents which resulted in inventions that changed our world for the better (or, maybe some weren’t so revolutionary, such as Silly Putty, but it depends on who you ask). Some accidental inventions such as the microwave, stainless steel, or our #1 accidental invention play principal roles in our daily lives and it would be difficult to imagine life without them (which makes you wonder, how did they manage to live back then…I digress). Necessity may be the mother of invention, but accidents are the bases of our best inventions. Read on to find out what might not have existed today had it not been for a mistake in this list of 25 accidental inventions that revolutionized our world.
By the way, some invention were not born out of accident but rather from dreams. It’s true, check out these 25 Dreams that Forever Changed Society to find out more.
One of the most well-known accidental inventions, Coca-Cola was created by pharmacist John Pemberton. Aiming to create a cure for headaches and anxiety, Pemberton created a syrup from wine and coca extract (the root ingredient in cocaine). When his home of Atlanta banned the sale of alcohol in 1885, he removed the wine from the syrup recipe and included carbonated water, thus creating the beginning of the soda so many of us enjoy today.
LSD – or lysergic acid diethylamide – is a psychedelic drug popular with counter-culture and youth movements of the 1960’s. Accidentally created by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, acid (as LSD is colloquially known) was first created in 1938 as an attempt at a circulatory stimulant. Five years later – after nothing of interest was discovered pharmacologically in ’38 – Hofmann made another batch of LSD-25 on a hunch, simply because he “liked the chemical structure of the substance”. While recrystallizing a few hundredths of a gram to analyze, Hofmann accidentally ingested some, leading to the first acid trip in history.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies seem as old as mothers themselves (at least to this author), but they’re a relatively recent invention. The Toll House Inn was founded as a bed-and-breakfast in Whitman, Massachusetts. Co-owner and cook Ruth Graves Wakefield was making her popular butter drop dough cookies one day in 1936 when she ran out of baker’s chocolate. Grabbing some sweetened chocolate she had on hand, Wakefield diced it up and added it to the cookies. To her surprise, it didn’t melt entirely but stayed relatively whole. She contacted Nestlé and struck a deal to print her recipe on all their semi-sweet chocolate bar wrappers in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Thus, the chocolate chip cookie was born.
If there is any group of society known for making accidents, it’s kids. Some accidents such as painting the walls with crayons or giving the cat a milk bath aren’t so great, but then you find a gem: popsicles. Eleven-year-old Frank Epperson was making a fruit-flavored soda from powder and water but forgot about it overnight. With the stirring spoon still in the cup, the mixture hardened in the freezing temperatures outside. He pulled the stick out and loved the treat he inadvertently made. Years later, he served them at a fireman’s ball and they were a huge hit. He began mass-producing his creation (originally called Eppsicles until his kids told him to scrap the name for something more kid-friendly) which took off with kids and adults everywhere.
Ever hear that not all bacteria is bad for you? Scottish scientist Sir Alexander Fleming found this lesson out first hand. Though searching for a panacea drug, Fleming found a curious happening in one of his discarded Petri dishes – a rapidly growing mold was preventing the surrounding bacteria in the dish from encroaching on it. Growing the mold individually, he isolated the powerful antibiotic penicillin.