invented by accident

7 Everyday Things In Your Life That Were Invented By Accident

Not all inventions are planned – here are 7 everyday things that were invented by accident. 

1. The color mauve

Photo courtesy of Lenore Edman via Flickr.

In 1856, an 18 year old William Perkin invented the color mauve in an attempt to find a cure for malaria.

The bright purple substance, though serving no cure to the airborne disease, spread in fashion instead when his patented ink was picked up by the queen, and thusly all of Victorian Britain. The young lad made a fortune.

2. The potato chip

Photo courtesy of Gloria Cabada-Leman via Flickr.

In 1853, the potato chip was invented when Native American/African American chef George Crum was forced to deal with an extremely fussy customer who thought his fries were too thick.

After several batches left the man unsatisfied, Crum vindictively served up fries too thin to eat with a fork, which ironically pleased the man and became the first ever potato chips.

3. The slinky

Photo courtesy of woodleynwonderworks via Flickr.

In 1943, Philadelphian engineer Richard James struggled to invent stabilization springs for use on ships during WWII. After accidentally knocking one of said springs, he observed its slink-tastic arcing movements: fun, and entertaining.

Christened the Slinky by his wife, the toy sold 400 models 90 minutes in 1945. Presumably, Richard then abandoned his naval invention quest due to his new-found calling.

4. The post-it

Photo courtesy of Ignatio Palomo Duarte via Flickr.

No, it wasn’t invented by Romy and Michelle. The glue used for post-its was first invented by 3M scientist Spencer Silver in 1968, though no one could figure out practical use for it until another 3M scientist named Arthur Fry was inspired to use it for sticky bookmarks at his church choir.

Fry built a manufacturing machine for his new invention in his own basement. After the product was released in the 1980’s, post-its became insanely successful, named 3M’s Outstanding New Product in 1981.

5. The popsicle

Photo courtesy of dingler1109 via Flickr.

When Frank Epperson was only 11 years old in 1905, he mixed a fruit-flavored soft drink with soda water powder and water – then accidentally left it outside for the night in freezing temperatures.

Eighteen years after this happy mistake, Epperson decided to patent and sell the idea, which it turned out no one else had ever thought of. What he called the “Eppsicle” was rechristened the “popsicle” by his kids, and the rest, as they say, is history.

6. Play-doh

Photo courtesy of Betsy Weber via Flickr.

Play-Doh was originally designed to be wallpaper cleaner, patented by brothers Noah and Joseph McVicker. Because of its playable consistency and lack of toxic chemicals, the product was instead manufactured as a toy for children.

The success of Play-Doh, which quickly became a hit in schools, is said to have made brother Joe a millionaire before his 27th birthday.

7. The microwave

Photo courtesy of Ewen Roberts via Flickr.

In 1945, inventor Percy Spencer was experimenting with radar at the company Raytheon. After a chocolate bar in his pocket was reduced to mush in close quarters with the magnetron, a radio-wave producing electronic vacuum tube, Spencer experimented with kernels and eggs to conclude that the machine could cook food unconventionally fast.

Upon this discovery, Spencer worked with Raytheon to develop the first microwave, which can now be found in 90% of all homes.


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Jennifer Markert