In 1970, a chemist called Spencer Silver was trying to invent a strong adhesive, but his experiment failed. However, he found that the adhesive he made could to stick to surfaces lightly. It was reported that Silver said, “at that time we wanted to develop a bigger, stronger and tougher adhesive … this was none of those”. As Silver was pulling two pieces of paper apart he realised that the adhesive did not transfer from one piece to another and remained on the paper it was initially put on. At the time, Silver thought this to be a useless invention. However, to Silver’s surprise, four years later when his colleague, Arthur Try, was attending a church choir practice and used markers to keep his place in the hymn book but these kept falling out. Arthur Try then used Silver’s adhesive and found that the markers kept their place and did not damage the fragile paper pages in the hymn book. Here was the birth of the Post-it Note. Now one of most popular stationary pieces and come in a variety of colours, shapes and dispensers such as the pebble or handbag Post- it dispenser. With over 180 different Post-it Note products from the Post-it Note brand in staples it has quickly become a multi- billion pound company founded of an adhesive that was discovered by mistake in a failed experiment more than thirty years ago.
Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist in London was researching a bacterium called Staphylococcus in 1928. Based in London’s St. Mary’s hospital he carried out an experiment when he placed a lab dish containing the bacteria near an open window. A few days later he discovered that a green mould had accidently come through the window and contaminated the bacteria on the petri dish. However, Fleming examined the bacteria further using a microscope instead of disregarding his experiment. He found that the mould had created an area of inhibition around itself (a clear zone of bacteria). Fleming experimented further into this and named the active substance Penicillin (benzylpenicillin) and was optimistic that the mould could be used in humans for its antibacterial agents. Through clinical trials that happened in the following years at Oxford University by Australian and German scientists Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, Penicillin was further developed into a drug for humans. By 1942, Penicillin was being used and still is being used in humans to kill a range of bacterial groups such as Streptococci, Clostridium, Staphylococci and Listeria Genera and has saved approximately two hundred million lives.
Wilson Greatbatch, an American who left the military service after World War II became a medical researcher. In the 1950s, when he was an assistant professor in electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo, Greatbatch was building an oscillator to record heart beat rhythms. When nearing completion, by accident he pulled out the wrong size resistor from his box of parts and installed it into the device. He found that instead of recording rhythms the device produced electrical pules that mimicked the characteristic sound and rhythms of the human heart beat “Bu-dum”. Before this, pace makers were large, external devices but due to Greatbatch’s finding and he research over the following years into shrinking the equipment implantable pacemakers became available for patients. Now, due to Mr. Greatbatch’s discovery, modern implantable pacemakers weighing less than two grams which are place inside within cardiac chambers with over five hundred internal pace makers being implanted in the UK every week.
The Slinky was also discovered by mistake. In 1943, a naval engineer, Richard James was creating a spring that could have been used on naval ships to keep sensitive equipment steady at sea. Whilst building the springs, he accidentally knocked one of his self and was pleasantly surprised that the spring did not just fall to the fall but instead stepped from the self to the desk and onto the floor. He believes that if he got “the right property of steel and the right tension … he could make it walk”. A year later, after deciding on high carbon steel wire with a 0.0575-inch diameter the Slinky became available to the public and it is believed that Richard James a revenue of one billion dollars. Even in modern days the slinky is still children’s toy despite its simplicity.