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Surprise Successes

17 Jul 2018

The printing press. The automobile. The internet. Electricity. Penicillin. Glasses. Sliced bread! All of these things and thousands more are inventions made my ingenious inventors that may have lived thousands or hundreds of years ago, or may even still be alive today, that we benefit from every single day. But do we ever take the time to think about just how much out-of-the-box thinking went into inventing these things, or how brave those inventors must have been to dare to dream up and create something nobody had ever heard of before? Probably not! And that’s why Inventor’s month was…invented! When is it? August, so here we have a look at some unintentional successes!

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford


Fleming’s legendary discovery of penicillin occurred in 1928, when Fleming left for a two-week holiday leaving out a petri dish containing a staphylococcus culture. This petri dish became contaminated and the contaminating mold had sufficient time to grow, showing signs of combating the staphylococcus culture!


Invented by a man named George de Mestral in the 1940’s while hunting in the Jura mountains in Switzerland. Mr. de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, realized that the tiny hooks of the cockle-burs were stuck on his pants and in his dog’s fur and wondered how they attached themselves. Under the scrutiny of the microscope, he observed the hooks engaging the loops in the fabric of his pants.


Discovered by Roy J. Plunkett at the DuPont Company’s Jackson Laboratory in 1938, was an accidental invention when a refrigeration experiment went wrong. Plunkett often told student audiences, his mind was prepared by education and training to recognize novelty.

Post-It Notes 

In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead he accidentally created a “low-tack,” reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. In 1974 a colleague, Art Fry, came up with the idea of using the adhesive to anchor his bookmark in his hymn book.


Your indispensable kitchen appliance is that it was invented utterly by accident one fateful day 70 years ago, when a Raytheon engineer named Percy Spencer was testing a military-grademagnetron and suddenly realized his snack had melted. Understandably curious just what the heck had happened, Spencer ran another test with the magnetron. This time he put an egg underneath the tube. Moments later, it exploded, covering his face in egg. “I always thought that this was the origin of the expression ‘egg on your face’,” Percy Spencer laughs. The following day, Percy Spencer brought in corn kernels, popped them with his new invention, and shared some popcorn with the entire office.

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