It takes a lot of hard work, brainstorming, and application to come up with an invention or a discovery. Scientists, researchers go through various tough times that are quite patience-testing, before coming up with innovative ideas that add newness to the world. On the other hand, there are some great inventions and discoveries that have taken place due to accidents! Let us know some interesting stories behind them!
Ever heard of Goodyear tires? They are named after the developer of vulcanised rubber, Charles Goodyear.
Those were the days when rubber companies were getting back their products in a melted form due to the torrid weather. Goodyear resolved to find a solution to this. He became obsessed with rubber and tried different combinations of chemicals from magnesia and quicklime to nitric acid to make rubber hard and weather resistant. But nothing worked. All the samples melted like ice in warm conditions.
One fine day, finally the magic happened. He accidentally dropped small amount of sulphur into a cauldron of rubber and to his surprise, the rubber actually hardened and became the vulcanised rubber that Goodyear devoted his life to make.
‘There is probably no other inert substance which so excites the mind.’ – Charles Goodyear.
Would you believe me if I told you your favourite snack is actually the outcome of an accident? The origin of potato chips has an interesting story. George Crum, a chef at Moon’s Lake House in New York got fed up with a customer who kept sending back his fried potatoes saying they were too thick and weren’t crispy enough. So he sliced the potatoes as thin as he could, fried them and doused them with salt. The customer absolutely loved them and thus began the journey of this tasty snack.
The ring structure of Benzene
Benzene is a very important compound in organic chemistry and is put to a lot of industrial use. Back in the 19th century, when it was discovered, scientists knew that it contained six atoms of carbon and six atoms of hydrogen. But as carbon is known to be tetravalent, coming up with a structure for it caused trouble to scientists.
The famous German scientist, Friedrich August Kekule, had an interesting dream in which he saw a snake coiling up and biting its own tail, which gave him the idea of a ring structure for benzene.
I was sitting writing at my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire, and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformations; long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twisting and turning in snake like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I woke;… I spent the rest of the night working out the consequences of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then perhaps we shall learn the truth but let us beware of making our dreams public before they have been approved by the waking mind. -Kekule (1890).
The oldest artificial sweetener, Saccharin, is 300-400 times as sweet as sucrose. It was accidentally discovered in the year 1879 by Constantine Fahlberg. After finishing his work, he started eating lunch without washing his hands. He noticed that the bread started to taste unusually sweet. He attributed it to the chemical he had spilled on his hands while working. Along with another scientist Ira Remsen, he published a paper giving the details of his discovery in 1880. It was late mass produced and the rest is very well known.
Archimedes was a Greek philosopher, mathematician, scientist and engineer. He invented the catapult and devised a system of pulleys and levers to handle heavy loads. The king of his native city Syracuse, Hietro II asked him to determine if his gold crown was alloyed with some cheaper metal like silver without causing damage to it.
He kept thinking and on one fine day, the partial loss of weight he experienced while lying in his bathtub suggested a solution to him. Thus came into existence the famous Archimedes’ principle which states that ‘any floating object displaces its own weight of fluid’. According to legend, he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse exclaiming ‘Eureka, eureka!’, meaning ‘I have found it!’.
Image sources: Wikipedia, Britannica, Goodyear Corporate, NCERT, tienda.com, Artivist.