Important inventions that were really lucky accidents
The Golden Duck founders on salted egg yolk potato chips
Upon returning from a holiday, Alexander
Fleming, a rather slapdash scientist, found unusual activity on one of the Petri dishes he had left out. Closer examination revealed that mould had contaminated his samples of a bacteria, preventing its normal growth. After some research, Fleming concluded that this particular mould could be used to develop a drug to combat infectious diseases. Fleming’s sloppiness led to his discovery of the
world’s first antibiotic.
Back in the day, pacemakers were bulky and required the use of external power to function. That changed in 1956 when the late Wilson Greatbatch made a fortuitous finding. While building an oscillator to record heart sounds, he made a mistake
that resulted in the device producing electrical pulses instead of just recording them. The inventor stared at his device in disbelief, realising it could be implanted in a person to electrically simulate and
stimulate a heartbeat.
Every time you seamlessly flip an omelette, you have Dr Roy Plunkett to thank. The chemist was researching new non-toxic alternatives to refrigerants when he and his assistant accidentally discovered polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin. The material was found to be inert to almost all chemicals and is considered
one of the most slippery materials in existence. Patented and trademarked as Teflon, it now saves you the anguish of
food sticking to pans.
In 1968 researcher Dr Spencer Silver was attempting to create an extremely strong adhesive for use in the aerospace industry, but ended up with a very weak one instead. By way of salvaging his work, he proposed spraying bulletin boards with
it so paper notices could be pasted and removed easily. No one took notice. A few years later his colleague Art Fry tweaked the idea, putting Silver’s adhesive on little pieces of paper instead of a bulletin board
and the Post-It note was born.