Accidental Discoveries in Technology: In the past, pure luck or accidents have caused some important scientific breakthroughs. These unintentional scientific discoveries are proof of it.
1. Discovery of Radar by Erik Correll:
In 1940, the Swedish scientist-bureaucrat Erik Correll and his colleagues stumbled upon an incredibly valuable scientific invention: radar. They were trying to use radio waves to detect passing ships. They were unsuccessful, and the breakthrough came when they stumbled across an unusual version of the interference patterns that were produced. Correll’s new method enabled the Swedish military to locate and destroy German submarines. Even more significantly, Correll’s radar played a major role in the Allied victory in World War II. Also, a Norwegian citizen named Trygve Lie was able to detect the German battleship, Tirpitz, with a handful of radio receivers.
2. The Discovery of Penicillin by Dr. Alexander Fleming:
Dr. Alexander Fleming began his search for a new antibiotic in 1928, when, coincidentally, he noticed an odd-looking mold living on some Petri dishes at the Royal Institute of Scientific Research in London. He thought it might make a useful natural product to test for a new antibiotic. Back then, antibiotics were produced by reacting the compound (called an antibiotic-protease) with a bacterial cell. Fleming suspected a virus might do the job but wasn’t sure. He stuck some of the molds on Petri dishes and waited. The mold did exactly what he hoped. The next day, the mold grew new cells on top of mold old ones, and those cells made the antibiotic protease and injected the bacteria cells with it. Fleming later called the mold “penicillin.
3. The Discovery of Chloroform:
Liquefied ether is often referred to as the “magical” drug of its time, but in the end, it was in fact just chloroform. Despite experiments that had shown it was an excellent solvent for organic compounds, it took Albert Einstein’s brain to turn the idea into a reality. In 1880, Einstein’s advisor in Switzerland was attempting to design a rotary engine. He happened upon some columns of ether that had been poured into a small tank. On these columns were black flecks that glowed in the light. Einstein analyzed the substance and concluded that it had properties that could be used as a fuel source. He got his wish when in 1908, Swedish chemist and Professor Carl Djerassi (the father of Viagra) isolated the chemical.
4. The Discovery of the Bicycle Wheel:
In the early twentieth century, American scientist G.W. Siemens invented the Siemens wire motor in 1903, and soon after started researching ways of increasing its efficiency. He didn’t have a clue that the simplest thing he could have done was to paint the wires silver so they could reflect the light. Siemens tested his silver bikes against gold-painted bikes and discovered that silver bikes produced significantly more energy per pound-force. So, he painted his own wire motors silver, and the bike industry soon followed suit. So, the bicycles we all use today, all handlebars and pedals, were discovered accidentally. But their technology is still in use today. Also, did you know that silver bikes are durable and popular in Russia, China, and Japan?
5. The Discovery of X-rays by Roentgen:
Accidental Discoveries in Technology: The discovery of X-rays by scientist Wilhelm Roentgen is one of the most well-known accidental discoveries. This discovery of an invisible, energy-carrying, medium was, at the turn of the century, a marvel. Discoveries like this changed the way doctors, scientists, and other people viewed their world. For centuries before this discovery, however, Roentgen had a family member who was a powerful amateur physicist. His daughter, born in 1865, became an accomplished singer. By the mid-1880s, Roentgen was aware that strange things could happen if he was to hold a light bulb up to a gas flame. As such, he kept a light bulb of the appropriate size on a table near him while performing experiments. One day, while experimenting with this light bulb, he accidentally snapped the bulb open.
6. The Discovery of MRI:
Most people remember the first use of an MRI machine, which was built back in the 1960s and only scanned small areas at a time. This all changed in the 1990s when MRI scanners became much more powerful and could do scanning on much bigger images. This came to be known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The first to use the new machine was the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They used it to check a metal gasket in a car engine, and it ended up revealing the secret of how cars work. It was only in 2007 that the public was invited to watch their work on the first-ever full scans.
7. The Discovery of Tantalum (Mineral):
In 1849, Paul Cournot, a French lawyer, and amateur mineralogist bought a little piece of Monet’s Como property. It was while looking through the rough rocks on the beach that he noticed something shining through the sand. The item was a lump of silver, easily picked up and sold in Paris. Upon examination, it turned out to be an enormous sample of a newly discovered mineral, tantalum. Monet gave up the beach cottage and moved to London.
8. The discovery of the link between diabetes and insulin:
Accidental Discoveries in Technology: The University of Pennsylvania-led research was only the second to unravel the relationship between the levels of two enzymes that aid in the development of insulin, Digeorge-III and Digeorge-V, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which causes sufferers to produce abnormally high levels of blood sugar. Before, researchers thought that the two enzymes only combined to reduce the level of blood sugar in the pancreas, which regulates the production of insulin, rather than causing it. And so they neglected to look further into the relationship between them, perhaps thinking it was simply a statistical fluke, or that there was some other factor at play.
9. The Invention of the Automobile:
On May 10, 1839, John Boyd Dunlop was in Ireland on holiday when he got bored waiting for a train to take him back home. He decided to have a go at making a little motor. Dunlop decided to try using iron and a bearing to make a crank, but the friction of the iron and the bearing caused the crank to turn. Dunlop kept trying things like different sizes of iron and different rubber rings until he found that a wheel would spin on his small crank and could be turned in his garden. He later refined the idea and realized he could design a one-wheeled vehicle that could be propelled by cranks that are more or less round. Then he went to London and took the work to the British publisher Edward Lloyd, who printed it, and soon companies were printing and selling Dunlop’s design.
10. The Invention of Plastic Surgery:
Accidental Discoveries in Technology: Plastic surgery was the invention of 19th-century doctor Johann Friedrich Weyse, who used skin grafts from pigs’ cheeks to repair the face of a drunken soldier named Andrei Bochkarev.
11. The Discovery of Duct Tape:
When it comes to storing food or beer, the solution is obvious: put the damn thing on the bottom of the fridge. The problem is, a lot of people just don’t pay attention to their food in the fridge and can get dehydrated for all sorts of strange reasons. To combat this, the Swiss police in the city of Lugano resorted to duct tape. One of the police officers saw a group of drinkers breaking bottles on a sidewalk, and it was from this inspiration that the Swiss police started using duct tape to hold up the perishable foods.
12. The Discovery of Gut Bacteria:
Accidental Discoveries in Technology: The word “Gut” in this list refers to the bacteria inhabiting the large intestine. These bacteria play a huge part in digestion, immunity, and hormones. Here’s a wild story that puts those gut bacteria to work. In 1895, a 17-year-old boy named John O’Sullivan was left in charge of his three brothers. His brothers were in the kitchen with their mother, preparing food. When the children were out of sight, the mother was bitten by a spider. The spider’s saliva contained a serum that killed the bacteria in the mother’s digestive system. Moreover, two of the boys also died from a strep infection. The gut bacteria were later discovered in the lab.
13. The Discovery of the Mass Spectrometer:
The mass spectrometer is an amazing technology. It detects the elements in an unknown substance by their mass. The information collected by the mass spectrometer is then analyzed to identify its makeup. So far so good, but what the mass spectrometer can also do is determine the concentration of the sample. When the atom bomb was dropped on Japan, the result was an explosion of radioactivity all over the planet. As a result, the technology was applied to this problem, which led to the development of the mass spectrometer.
14. The Discovery of the Nuclear Fission Process:
The most basic understanding of nuclear fission is that it is the breaking apart of heavy atoms into lighter elements, such as protons and neutrons. It’s the splitting of the nucleus (constructed from the previous ‘heavy’ atom). The end product is an atom with a small amount of free-radical energy. Of course, nobody foresaw nuclear fission until someone, somewhere, reached into a metal flask and hit it with enough energy to shatter the outer shell. It was William Lawrence Bragg, a pioneer in nuclear physics, who stumbled on the nuclear fission process by accident.
Conclusion: Accidental Discoveries in Technology
There are many things we are still uncertain about, such as whether or not the universe began with a Big Bang, but the boundaries between science and science fiction have become increasingly blurred. In the end, we must rely on our collective common sense and our faith in the amazing achievements of mankind to guide us.
Science can be fun, and it is supposed to be; it is supposed to be the collection of knowledge and understanding that allows humans to overcome obstacles and reach unimaginable discoveries. And, while a person can only hope for the best and expect the worst, technology is a force of nature. We can’t stop it, but we can learn from it.