The belief that NASA invented Velcro to be used in space missions is a very common misconception. In truth, George De Mestral, an electrical engineer, stumbled upon the idea for Velcro after returning from a hike with his dog. DeMestral became intrigued by the way “cocklebur” stuck to his dog’s fur and his own clothing. He decided to examine the burs under a microscope and saw that they had tiny hooks that allowed them to catch on and stick to other surfaces. He then used various materials and surfaces with hooks and loops to reproduce the effect and create an even stronger bond.
Most of the items you use in your daily life were probably invented by someone with an ingenious idea who set out to make it a reality. Most… but not all. Some very popular everyday items came about completely be accident. Here are five popular items with unintentional origins that seem to have appeared out of nowhere.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg discovered the origin of the popular breakfast cereal completely by accident while preparing meals for hospital patients. They found that a wheat substance they used to make bread came out flaky and crunchy when baked. After some experimentation, they made corn the main ingredient of their new discovery. The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company was launched in 1906, eventually becoming “Kellogg’s.”
On a cold evening in the early 1900s, an 11-yr-old boy inadvertently made the first version of what would become the Popsicle™. Young Frank Epperson mixed together soda powder and water to make a drink that was very popular at the time. He left the mixture on the back porch of his house overnight with the wooden stirring stick still in it. The next morning he enjoyed licking the frozen concoction off the stick. He later received a patent for his invention and began a business selling what he called the “Epsicle Ice Pop” or “Epsicle” (a combination of his name and the word “icicle.”). The name was eventually changed to Popsicle™ because Epperson's children called the treat “pop’s sicle.”
Saccharin, one of the first artificial sweeteners on the market, was discovered by chance by a chemist working at Johns Hopkins University. One day, Constantine Fahlberg neglected to wash his hands after returning home and sat down to enjoy his evening meal. He was surprised by the sweet flavor of his bread and quickly realized the sweetness was coming from a substance left on his hands. He went back to the lab and determined the source was a compound called "benzoic sulfimide." Fahlberg’s discovery was used to replace sugar while it was in short supply during World War I, but did not achieve widespread popularity until much later when it gained its reputation as a calorie-free sweetner.
Percy Spencer, a scientist during World War II, was surprised to find that the chocolate bar he was carrying in his pocket melted when he stood next to a microwave-emitting device used in radar equipment. The discovery led him to experiment with other foods and he soon found that microwaves could cook almost anything faster than conventional ovens. He invented a machine using similar technology that became “the microwave oven.”
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