No. 58

5 Accidental Inventions

Sometimes someone discovers something without the initial intention of doing so. In this month’s Heavens to Murgitroyd, we take a look at some common products in the modern world that have been discovered in just this way.

shutterstock_1804153941. Penicillin

Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 after Fleming left a dirty petri dish in the sink of his lab whilst he went on holiday. He came back to find bacteria had grown all over the dish apart from one area where mould had formed.

2. Microwave

At the end of World War II, Raytheon engineer, Percy Spencer, was looking for another use for the magnetron (the generator of microwaves for radar systems). Whilst Spencer stood next to the device one day, a chocolate bar melted in his pocket leading to the now very popular microwave.

3. Chewing Gum

Thomas Adams discovered chewing gum in 1870 whilst trying to come up with a substitute for rubber using chicle, a sap from a South American tree. Adams failed in his attempts to re-invent rubber so decided to put a piece in his mouth. He liked it and chewing gum was born.

4. Botox (Botulinum Toxin A For Cosmetic Use)

In 1987 a couple from Vancouver, Canada, accidentally discovered the wrinkle-smoothing properties of the chemical botulinum toxin A, marketed today under the trade mark Botox, amongst others. Alastair and Jean Carruthers were trying to treat eye-muscle disorders by injecting small doses of the toxic chemical. They discovered that in doing this people’s wrinkles were magically disappearing!

5. Brandy

Whilst transporting wine in the 16th century, a Dutch shipmaster accidentally created “burnt wine” or “brandweijn” in Dutch. The shipmaster was using heat to concentrate wine to make it easier to transport.