7 Amazing Accidental Discoveries

7 Amazing Accidental Inventions

At some point or another, we can guarantee you’ve found some bizarre flavour combination that inexplicably works insanely well (chips and ice cream – it’s a winner).  These seven people have taken amazing accidental inventions like this to the next level and they’re all things you know extremely well and never realised their weird origins.

Number Seven: The Ice Cream Cone

Waffles are great, ice cream is also great, combining the two is just sheer genius.  Which is exactly what Italo Marchiony did in 1896 after he emigrated from Italy in the late 1800’s.  He was granted a patent for it in December 1903.  

This story isn’t about him though.  The ice cream cone that’s closest to the one we all know and love was invented totally independently of Marchiony at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904.   Bit of a kick in the teeth for Marchiony, considering he technically had the idea first; although considering he earned millions from his patent and went on to develop all different types of ice cream holders, we imagine he wasn’t too upset.

Ice Cream accidental discovery

The Accidental Invention:

In 1904, World Fair St. Louis, a Persian stand selling crisp, waffle-y pastries called ‘zalabis’ is staring jealously over to its neighbour, an ice cream vendor who is having far more success selling its wares. 

So much success, in fact, that the stall starts to run out of dishes in which to give out its ice cream.  Hamwi, the waffle store owner quickly saw a way to butt in on the profits and rolled one of his thin pastries into the shape of a cone and gave it to the ice cream vendor, presumably with a wink and a smirk. 

The cone cooled quickly, and the vendor put some ice cream in it, an accidental invention that was an instant hit. 


Number Six: Vulcanised Rubber

Rubber’s one of those things that has been around since 1830s and that everyone could tell had the potential to be really useful; the only problem was no one was quite sure how.

Consumers and manufacturers initially went nuts for the stuff. It was a popular substance for waterproof shoes and boots but beyond that no one knew what to do with it. This was largely due to the fact it couldn’t withstand freezing temperatures or extreme heat. 

vulcanised rubber accidental discovery

The world was ready to give up on rubber, having wasted quite a lot of money already trying to make it work. But one guy refused; Charles Goodyear was beyond sure rubber had a future and dedicated his time to proving it. You have to admire his perseverence.

So, imagine how angry he must have been after years of hard work to accidentally drop some on a hot stove and discover vulcanised rubber totally by mistake.

This created a charred leather-like substance with an elastic rim. He had unintentionally created what everyone had been trying to invent for years – weatherproof rubber.  Sadly, he never got to see his accidental invention become used world over and died in $200,000 worth of debt.  Still, the two most famous rubber companies pretty much ever are now named after him, so I guess that’s something.


Number Five: Popsicles

1905, soda pop has exploded in U.S drink markets with little kids across the States experiencing their first ever sugar rush.  11-Year-old Frank Epperson was all for this craze, but not for paying for it. He wanted his pocket money to go on more important things, and being the little genius he was, decided to try and make his own soda pop.

Accidental Invention - popsicles

With all the ingenuity of a child in search of a sugar rush, Frank mixed together powdered soda and water with a stirring stick in an attempt to copy the soda pop enterprise.  The only problem was he had the attention span of, well, an 11-year-old and promptly got distracted, leaving it on his front porch with a stir stick still inside. 

San Francisco was particularly chilly that night and when he woke up the next day, he went outside to find his soda pop attempt had frozen into a delicious icy treat that he named the ‘Epsicle’.  That was the last anyone heard of it for 18 years. 

He did of course then patent it, naming his accidental invention the Popsicle which is still now one of America’s favourite frozen foods. 


Number Four: Viagra

I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by pretending they don’t know what Viagra is; but if you like feigning ignorance then Viagra is the drug that lets men get it on in the bedroom. 

Obviously when men discovered this drug existed they went nuts for it (pun intended), and in the first year an approximate 30 million bought the “miracle” drug. It’s now one of the most prescribed drugs in the world as it’s taken allegedly “recreationally” by so many. 

Viagra accidentally invented

The thing is, no doctor set out to give men erections, it was simply a… happy accident. Unsurprisingly, they thought they had more important medical issues to deal with – like heart conditions. Drug company Pfizer were trying to look for something to relax the vessels supplying the heart with blood, caused by Angina.  They were ready to throw their tests out until trial volunteers started reporting something unusual, that something being massive erections.

So, Pfizer slapped a new name on the accidental invention and started marketing it as the cure for erectile dysfunction – possibly the best thing to come out of the pharmaceutical industry for years.


Number Three: Chips

Speaking of screwing people, chips were an accidental invention originally intended as a massive “Screw You” to a fussy customer in a New York restaurant.


In 1853, George Crum was getting increasingly more annoyed at a fussy complaining customer. A man who kept sending his french fries back to the kitchen for being too soggy.  In an act of smug revenge that anyone in the service industry has wanted to do at one point or another, he sliced the potato pieces ultra thin, fried them to a crisp and drowned them in salt.

Instead of the expected complaint the customer absolutely loved them. Crum realised he might be onto something great and potato chips became a hit. 

Number Two: Anaesthesia

What’s brilliant about this accidental invention is that it came out of a bunch of rich toffs trying to get their jollies off by getting high as kites.

Crawford Long, William Morton, Charles Jackson and Horace Wells all enjoyed frequenting the popular 1800’s ‘laughing parties’ or ‘ether frolics’. A time-honoured tradition where people would literally sit around inhaling laughing gas and having a brilliant time.

Laughing gas accidental invention

In 1844, Wells attended an exhibit where a man injured his leg whilst under the influence of laughing gas and through chuckles told Wells he didn’t feel a thing.

A light bulb went off in Wells head and he and his four laughing compatriots began to collaborate. From that moment on the compound was used during medical procedures, as it still is today.

Although they thought it was a good idea to change the name of their accidental invention from ‘laughing gas’ to ‘anaesthesia’ so as not to terrify patients.  


The Winner!

Number One: Super glue

This is the winner purely because Harry Coover managed to unintentionally invent it twice. Plus, the first time he got so annoyed by its stickiness that he threw it away.

superglue accidental invention

The Accidental Invention:

In World War II Coover’s team were trying to invent a material to cover plastic gun sights. The chemical he used kept sticking to everything and was generally a real pain to have around so Coover, in a fit of badly thought out frustration, threw it away and tried something else.

He didn’t think of it again until 1952 when Kodak wanted to experiment with the chemical (it’s called cyanocrylates by the way) for heat-resistant jet airplane canopies.  When the stickiness got in the way again, Coover actually thought things through this time and realised he had something pretty awesome in front of him. 

He patented his accidental discovery, calling it ‘super glue’ and its stuck around ever since.


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