By: Kristine Enemuo
Believe it or not, some of the most important inventions we know were completely made by accident. Let’s take a look at five successful inventions that were made by mistake and the surprising stories behind them!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, owned an inn. One day, Ruth wanted to bake chocolate cookies for her guests. She found out that she was out of baker’s chocolate (which is an unsweetened form of chocolate). The only chocolate she had available was a semi-sweet chocolate bar. She chopped up the bar into tiny pieces, thinking it would melt into the cookie dough batter, but the little chocolate bits stuck, causing it to look like a modern day chocolate chip cookie. Ruth decided to serve the cookies to her guests, and it became a hit! Soon after, everyone wanted to make Ruth’s cookies! To make things easier, in 1939, the company that made the semi-sweet chocolate bar started to sell their chocolate in the form of small ‘chips.’ Hence the birth of chocolate chips!
The Microwave Oven
In 1945, an engineer named Percy Spencer was conducting an experiment with a powerful vacuum tube machine. One day, he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket would melt when he would work on the vacuum tube. Percy decided to put popcorn kernels in the
machine, which popped within seconds. He then put an egg inside, which exploded! It turns out that these vacuum tubes Percy was working with produced a form of energy, known as a microwave, which causes tiny particles in food to vibrate, which then creates heat that cooks the food! Two years later, Percy released the ‘RadaRange,’ known as the first microwave oven. The rest is history!
The very first ice pop was created in 1905 by an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson. Frank made himself a soda by pouring water and sweet soda powder into a cup and mixing it with a wooden stirring stick. After playing outside all day, Frank went inside but left his cup of soda (with the stirring stick in it) on the porch for the whole night. The night was very cold, and when Frank went outside the next day, he found his soda frozen. He ate it, using the stick as a handle, and loved it! Frank called his new invention the “Epsicle,” and made the treat for kids at his school. When Frank got older, he sold his treat at a ball party and an amusement park where they became a huge hit. He produced even more flavors and sold them around his area. His kids called his treat “Pop’s ‘Sicle,” which led to the name we now know as “Popsicle.”
In 1968, a scientist named Spencer Silver was trying to make a really strong adhesive (a sticky substance that joins things together). However, Spencer created the complete opposite: a weak adhesive that could stick to objects but could be easily removed without making a mark. One of Spencer’s co workers decided to put Spencer’s adhesive on his bookmarks to prevent them from falling out of his book. The product became super successful and was sold as the “Post-it Note.”
In 1928, a scientist named Alexander Fleming was was investigating staphylococcus (sta·fuh·luh·kaa·kuhs), a common bacteria that causes several illnesses. Before leaving for vacation, he accidentally left a dish containing the bacteria on his lab bench. When he returned, he found mold on the dish that destroyed the bacteria. He discovered that the mold produced a self-defense chemical that could kill the bacteria, so he named that mold penicillin (peh·nuh·si·luhn). Alexander had just discovered the world’s first bacteria killer, which would treat many infections and save countless lives.
BONUS: Potato Chips
Legend has it that a chef, George Crum, made a plate of fried potatoes for a customer. The picky customer complained that the potatoes were too thick, and sent back his plate many times asking for the potatoes to be thinner. George lost his temper and sliced the potatoes paper-thin and fried them to a crisp. To his surprise, the customer loved them! This popular potato chip legend may not be entirely true, but George did become known for his potato chips. Visitors came far and wide to taste his famous chips. George eventually opened his own restaurant where he would put a basket of potato chips on every table.