Accidental Inventions

Can you name the inventions or discoveries that were made by accident?

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Credited toInvention/DiscoveryHint (Year)
Alexander FlemingFleming accidentally left out a bacterial culture of Staphylococcus which was contaminated by mold. He noticed that bacteria was unable to grow in parts of the dish where the mold was growing. (1928)
John PembertonIt was originally meant as a miracle tonic for treating hangovers, but a batch was made using carbonated water instead of plain water, leading to this popular beverage. (1886)
Ruth WakefieldHaving run out of baker's chocolate, Wakefield substituted semi-sweet chocolate bits which were meant to melt completely into the dough, but instead this was invented. (1930s)
Wilhelm C. RöntgenWhile Röntgen was working with a cathode ray tube covered in opaque black paper, he noticed a fluorescent screen nearby was glowing, leading to this discovery. (1895)
Roy PlunkettWhile developing a new CFC gas for refrigerators, Plunkett created this slick substance which is now used as a lubricant and to form non-stick surfaces. (1938)
Charles GoodyearGoodyear accidentally dropped a glob of rubber-sulfur solution on a hot plate, and discovered that this process made the rubber firm and flexible, not shattering in cold temperatures. (1839)
Richard T. JamesJames noticed the unique way in which a dropped torsion spring had flip-flopped around on the floor, and replicated it using a long steel ribbon. (1943)
Harry Coover, Fred JoynerCoover was creating a plastic to use in precision gun sights. He ended up producing an adhesive which polymerized rapidly when exposed to moisture, forming strong chemical bonds. (1942)
Patsy Sherman, Samuel Smith3M was developing fluorochemicals for use in aircrafts when a liquid solution accidentally stained a researcher's shoe. As the shoe became dirtier and worn, the stained spot remained clean. (1952)
Albert HofmannHofmann synthesized this hallucinogenic chemical while searching for medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives. (1938)
Arthur FrySpencer Silver created an extremely weak adhesive while working for 3M. Later on, Fry used the adhesive on his paper bookmarks which could peel off without tearing the pages. (1974)
Wilson GreatbatchWhile working on a device to record heart sounds, Greatbatch inserted the wrong resistor into the circuit, causing it to repeatedly pulse: on for 1.8 milliseconds, then off for 1 second. (1960)
Frank EppersonEpperson left a cup with a mixture of powdered soda and water along with a stir stick outside in sub-zero temperatures, and returned to find the drink had frozen over. (1905)
Percy SpencerSpencer was building magnetrons for radar sets. While standing near one he noticed the candy bar in his pocket began to melt, leading to the invention of this household appliance. (1945)
James WrightWhile Wright was looking for a synthetic rubber material, silicone oil and boric acid were combined to form this sticky, gooey substance, later marketed as a toy. (1944)
William HerschelHerschel first described it as a comet, but later noticed its elliptical orbit around the Sun. (1781)
James M. SchlatterSchlatter was in the process of refining an anti-ulcer drug, when this chemical's sweet taste was discovered after some of it accidentally got onto Schlatter's finger in the lab. (1965)
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  • The credit for some of the inventions/discoveries mentioned here may be disputed. This quiz focuses on a particular person or pair that are often given credit for these inventions/discoveries.
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Last Updated: Feb 21, 2019
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