An engineer named Percy Spencer in 1946 was conducting research using radar and vacuum tubes. While conducting an experiment he realized that a candy bar had started to melt in his pocket. To confirm his suspicion, he tried holding popcorn kernels next to the device and they popped into popcorn.
A scientist named Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928 was trying to create a miracle drug that could cure all diseases. He noticed that mold was dissolving the bacteria around it in a petri dish that he had thrown in the trash. He discovered that the mold contained a powerful antibiotic which turned out to be penicillin.
In 1856 chemist William Perkin created the first synthetic dye in the colour mauve while trying to create a malaria cure derived from tree bark. The malaria cure was a failure, however Perkin discovered the thick purple sludge that came from his creation was able to dye fabrics, it wouldn’t run from washing of fade from the sun. He named the dye “mauvine” or “mauve” and it became a huge fashion trend in the 1850’s.
A researcher at Johns Hopkins University named Constantine Fahlberg in 1879 was trying to find a new use for coal tar. One day after eating one of his wife’s biscuits after work he noticed that they tasted sweeter than usual. He realized that he had forgotten to wash his hands before leaving work and that the chemical on his hand was causing the sweet taste.
In 1951 an electrical engineer named John Hopps was conducting research on hypothermia, he was trying to find a way to use radio frequencies as a heating source to restore body temperature and cure hypothermia. During his experiments he realized that a heart could be re-started by artificial stimulation, and thus was born the pacemaker.
During WWII Japan had invaded countries that supplied rubber to the United states. In an effort to create a substitute, the US government funded multiple research projects to create a synthetic rubber that all failed. In 1943 an engineer named James Wright was trying to make a rubber substitute out of silicon, which was more widely available at the time. While experimenting, he added boric acid to the substance, which created a gooey, bouncy putty that would later be known as silly putty.
In 16th century Holland, while trying to make wine transportation easier a Dutch merchant had the idea to boil and distil the water out of wine to create a more potent wine that was a lower volume of liquid. When the concentrated wine arrived at its location, water would be added back into the distilled wine. This process did not work because the boiling process changed the taste of the wine, and created brandy. In Dutch the word for brandy means “burned wine.”
in 1968 while trying to make a super strength glue and engineer instead accidentally made a very weak adhesive. The project was eventually deemed a failure, until Arthur Fry discovered that the adhesive allowed paper to stick and be peeled off things multiple times. He made this discovery after being frustrated when during his church choir practise his notes keep falling out of his hymn book. He used the adhesive to stick the notes into the book, and then later peeled them off.