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Accidental Entrepreneur: Inventions That Just "Happened"

written by: johnsinit•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 9/10/2011

Some notable inventions that happened by accident include all kind of inventions from Popsicles to microwave ovens to penicillin. These inventions were not intended to be discovered but came into being as part of some accident or mistake on the part of the experimenter or the scientist.

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    Corn Flakes

    Some of the inventions that happened by accident are the most appreciated ones. Cornflakes cereal is one of the most Kellogs wonderful. During the year 1984, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg were searching for wholesome vegetarian foods to feed to the patients of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Will accidentally left out some boiled wheat that went stale. Instead of discarding it, they sent it through rollers hoping for dough; instead, they got flakes. Once the flakes were toasted and given to the patients, the brothers knew they had made an invention which, after a few more processing and being tested on a variety of grains, is today known as corn flakes.

    Image: Logo of the Kellogg Company

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    Saccharin and Penicilin

    Alexander Fleming One of the other famous inventions that happened by accident is saccharin – the sweetener in the pink packet. Constantin Fahlberg in the year 1879 was trying to discover various uses of coal tar, and on one such day he consumed rolls at home without washing his hands. The rolls tasted sweet and Fahlberg realized it was because of his unwashed hands that he tasted sweetness. Further testing and experiments led to the discovery of the sweetener.

    Penicillin is another such invention – Alexander Fleming left for vacation without cleaning his work station. On his return he found strange fungus formed on the cultures on his desk and noticed that the bacteria couldn’t thrive on such cultures. Thus came to be invented one of the best antibiotics.

    Image: Photo of Alexander Fleming

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    Champagne and Ice Cream Cone

    Champagne, the drink without which no celebration would be complete, is also reagrded as one of the inventions that happened by accident. A Benedictine monk spent two years unsuccessfully trying to make bubbling wine that led to the discovery of champagne. It was born out of loaded bubbles with carbon dioxide which became a popular drink as time passed by.

    The ice cream cone was invented during the 1904 world fair when the dishes to serve ice cream ran out, and it had to be served in thin waffles. Soon they became a favorite way for everyone to eat ice cream – in a cone.

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    Microwave and Pacemaker

    sxc.hu, microwave oven 2, by hisks During the year 1945, Percy Spencer was carrying out some experiments with a new vacuum tube called a magnetron when the candy bar in his pocket began to melt. He then tried popcorn which began to pop. This led to the discovery of the microwave oven.

    The pacemaker, a life-saving medical device, is yet another of those inventions that happened by accident. Professor Wilson Greatbatch was working on a circuit that would record fast heart beats and when he pulled 1 mega ohm resistor instead of 10,000 ohm one, the circuit pulsed in order to produce a perfect heart beat.

    Image Credit: sxc.hu, microwave, by hisks

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    Potato Chips

    Fed up with a customer who sent the potato fries back to the cook, complaining of them being soggy and not crunchy, George Crum sliced the potato thinner, deep fried the slices, and sprinkled them with salt – thus making potato chips.

    For more inspiring stories, check out the other profiles in Bright Hub's Collection of Interviews and Biographies of Successful Entrepreneurs.






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