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5 Things Invented by Accident

Written by Sean Smith

There’s always someone who is trying to create a new invention to make our lives easier, happier, and more efficient. Most times there are detailed plans that work out perfectly and the invention is successful. Sometimes there are inventions that happened by accident. Here are 5 things that were invented by accident.


  1. Corn Flakes

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg worked at Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan in 1894. They were Seventh-Day Adventists who followed a strict vegetarian diet and researched the “impact of diet on their patients. One day one of the brothers left the boiled wheat dough out too long, and when they tried to roll it out, it broke into dozens of flakes. He baked them in the oven to find out what they would taste like. Sometime later the wheat was switched out for corn to give us Corn Flakes that are still enjoyed today.


  1. Slinky

In 1943, Richard T. James, a naval engineer, accidentally knocked over a spring that he was modifying into a stabilizer for naval equipment. When he watched it fall from the high shelf, he noticed that the spring was neatly uncoiling itself and “stepping down.” It stepped from the shelf, to a stack of books, to a table, and then to the floor. For the next two years James developed it more and then sold 400 “Slinky” toys in only 90 minutes. They eventually were sold at Gimbels in 1945.


  1. Post-It-Notes

Dr. Spencer Silver was a 3M chemist, and in 1968, instead of creating a super-strong adhesive, he created a super-weak one that only held things together temporarily. That weak adhesive product sat unused at the 3M plant for 5 years. Art Fry, one of Silver’s colleagues, attended one of Silver’s seminars and realized that the weak adhesive could stick bookmarks into the pages of his church hymnbook. It took a few years for Silver and Fry to convince 3M the product could be sold. Silver and Fry worked on a design to put the adhesive on one side of a piece of paper. In 1977 it was sold as “Press ‘N Peel,” but that didn’t go well. In 1980 it sold nationally as the “Post-It-Note” and the rest is history.


  1. Popsicles

In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water (the mixing stick was still inside) on his porch overnight. The night got cold and the mixture froze. Twenty years later Epperson marketed it as an Epsicle. This was the beginning of American’s favorite frozen treat – the popsicle.


  1. Safety Glass

In 1909, French chemist Edouard Benedictus accidentally knocked over a glass beaker from a high shelf in his lab. He noticed that it shattered but didn’t break. The assistant said the beaker had cellulose nitrate in it, which left a clear, natural, plastic film on the inside of the beaker. He filed for a patent immediately and safety glass is still used widely today.


These are just a few of the many things that were invented by accident. The next time you have an accident while working on something, it just might be the next “World’s Greatest Invention.”


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About the author

Sean Smith