The etymology of “invention” is early 15c., invencioun, “finding or discovering of something,” from Old French invencion (13c.) and directly from Latin inventionem (nominative inventio) “faculty of invention,” noun of action from past-participle stem of invenire “to come upon, find; find out; invent, discover, devise; ascertain; acquire, get earn,” from in- “in, on” (from PIE root *en “in”) + venire “to come,” from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- “to go, come.” Sense of “thing invented” is first recorded 1510s; that of “act or process of finding out how to make or do” is from 1530s.
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People are always chasing after the next big thing, and sometimes, it falls on your lap without even knowing it. From household crispy potato chips to life saving Penicillin, all kinds of famous and revolutionary things have come to be thanks only to a sleight of hand or a twist of fate. Inventors are a dime a dozen, but these ones definitely lucked out!
Here are some of the most famous accidental inventions!
1. Play doh
The sticky toy was originally marketed as a wall cleaner that didn’t work so well. Luckily, kids started using the product to make little sculptures, and before long, the fledgling company was making waves as a children’s toy staple.
2. Potato chips
A story that would make it onto countless food forums today, Potato chips were accidentally invented when an annoying customer kept asking a restaurant to make his French fries thinner and crispier. George Crum, the chef, sliced them wafer thin as a joke, but the guy loved them and the potato chip was born.
3. Microwave oven
Percy Spencer was experimenting with a radar related vacuum tube when a candy bar in his pocket started melting. Utilising this new knowledge, he patented the microwave. What a lucky accident!
Spencer Silver discovered a “low tack” adhesive in 1968 for which he found no use. A member of his church’s choir, Art Fry was frustrated by not having sticky notes for his hymnal. Combining their heads, they launched Post-its in 1980. Fridges have never looked the same since.
John and Will Kellogg (Yeah, they were actual people) discovered the staple breakfast cereal when they accidentally left a pot of boiled grain on the stove for a number of days.
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As these five examples suggest, some of the most famous inventions were accidents. Also, most of them were the result of a long process of countless failures in which dozens (if not hundreds or even thousands) of people are involved.
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