A scientist named Alexander Fleming conducted experiments with bacteria in 1928. When he came back from a vacation, he found that some of his specimens were growing mold instead of bacteria. He experimented with this mold and discovered that it had the ability to produce a substance that it blocked the development of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Fleming named this mold penicillium notatum. It wasn’t until the 1940’s when Ernst Chain and Howard Florey were able to turn the mold into the antibiotic medicine that penicillin is known as today.
After attempting to invent a rust-proof gun barrel, British metallurgist Harry Brearly managed to create stainless steel. This metal is used to construct skyscrapers, cutlery, vehicles and countless other important parts of human life.
Thanks to various people noting the anesthetic benefits of substances like nitrous oxide while experimenting with it for recreational use, we now have anesthesia.
Alfred Nobel inadvertently came up with a way to combine gunpowder and nitroglycerin in a manner that made it stable enough for use as dynamite.
Will Keith Kellogg accidentally created corn flakes when he left some bread dough sitting out one day. Instead of throwing it out, he baked it. Corn flakes were the outcome.
After storing some plastic cellulose nitrate in a glass flask, French chemist Edouard Benedictus inadvertently knocked the flask off of his desk one day. He noticed that it didn’t shatter, but merely cracked. He found that this was due to the previous contact with the cellulose nitrate. This discovery created safety glass.
Scientist Wilhelm Roentgen was experimenting with cathode rays in 1895. He observed that light appeared on a piece of fluorescent cardboard despite there being a solid blockage between it and the ray. He found that the cathode ray’s light can penetrate some objects. This discovery led to the development of x-rays.
While out hunting with his dog, George de Mestral noticed how burrs kept sticking to its fur. He went to his lab and created a material that had the same effect. NASA later popularized this material as Velcro.
Harry Coover inadvertently created a synthetic adhesive using cyanoacrylate. Years later, it was popularized and marketed as Super Glue.
Cleo McVicker was just trying to invent wallpaper cleaner when he created modeling clay, which has become known as Play-Doh.
Image Credit: Jeff Hester