Famous Inventions That Were Discovered Unintentionally


| LAST UPDATE 01/19/2023

By Elena White
Smoke Alarm Invention Accident
PA Images via Getty Images

Many scientists will dedicate their entire professional lives to inventing something life-changing. Following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, who created the telephone, and Thomas Edison, who produced the very first lightbulb, these aspiring inventors wanted to make their mark in the world by introducing a new product that will change the course of civilization. While some are successful, others will fail. Then there are those who managed to invent something without even necessarily trying!

As the world's first-ever antibiotic, Penicillin has saved millions of lives. It ensures that people can fight off infection and live through a disease. Interestingly, this medication was not the product of tireless research and trials but rather the unforeseen result of a messy workhouse. Alexander Fleming, a British bacteriologist, returned to his lab after a vacation in 1928 to see that his petri dish had been accidentally contaminated and was now growing mold. Before throwing it out, he noticed that the mold-surrounding areas had no bacteria in them and realized he had stumbled across a bacteria-killing mold juice, which he named Penicillin. Ten years later, a team at Oxford University turned Penicillin into a human-safe medicine.

Penicillin Alexander Fleming Invention Accident
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If it weren't for smoke detectors alerting people of a possible fire, millions more lives would be lost every year. The man responsible for this life-saving invention is Walter Jeager, a physicist from Switzerland. In the 1930s, he was working hard to create a poisonous gas detector but was having no luck. While he smoked a cigarette and examined the device further, he was surprised when it started registering his cigarette smoke. With this, the smoke detector was born.

Can you imagine a life without Coca-Cola? Well, that was nearly the case because no one was intentionally trying to create it! In 1866, John Pemberton, an American pharmacist, was actually working hard to create an opiate-free painkiller. His first product was named French Wine Coca, containing alcohol, Neurocaine, and kola nuts. As the prohibition was enacted, he was forced to replace the wine with sugar syrup. After he continued playing with the formula, his carbonated water accidentally mixed with his concoction, and he decided to try it. As soon as it touched his lips, he knew he was onto something, classifying it as a drink and naming it "Coca-Cola." The rest, as they say, is history.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below