When talking about scientific discoveries we always think that it’s a result of years and years of hard working , experimenting , analyzing , observing ,etc.
But the truth is it’s not always that way.
In this article I’m going to list five massive scientific breakthroughs that were actually made by accident.
Lets say you are a chemist which means you spend your whole day mixing and experimenting on different chemicals which may be dangerous sometimes.
After along day in the lab , you return home to have a nice warm meal with your wife .
As you put your first bite in your mouth you realize that it tastes oddly sweet .
As a tired hungry husband you flip off and pour your anger on your wife for mistakenly using sugar instead of salt in your bread roll.
But that was not the case for Constantine Fahlberg the Russian chemist.
Fahlberg worked at the Remsen lab owned by the professor of chemistry , Ira Remsen in the John’s Hopkins University.
In the 1878 , Fahlberg who was working on developing coal tar derivatives , ruled out the possibility of the bread being made that way .
He realized that he did not wash his hands before eating and he must have accidentally spilled some chemical substance on his hands but the question was , what was it ?
Filled with excitement , Fahlberg rushed to the lab with the intention of tasting all the chemicals on his table .
And yes he did , he took one for science .
He found out that the sweet taste was caused by the benzoic sulfinide , a chemical compound created from boiling sulfobenzoic acide with phosphorus chloride and ammonia .
Fahlberg immediately penned a paper with Remsen describing the compound and the method of making it . The published paper stated that Remsen and Fahlberg both as the founders of the compound.
Years later when Fahlberg realized the huge commercial potential of the discovery , he listed hime self as the only founder when he patented Saccharin in 1886.
His discovery made a massive widespread especially after the sugar shortage in World War I.
And that’s how the first non-toxic , sugar alternative was created.
Another life changing invention was found due to the lack of hygiene in the lab .
As it is highly important to maintain a high hygiene level of the glassware and tools used in the lab, yet Edward Benedictus’s assistance was some how lazy to properly clean one of the flasks in his lab , but ironically her laziness came in our benefit and here’s how :
In 1903 , the french scientist was in his lab standing on his ladder trying to reach one of the glasswares on a top shelf when he accidentally knocked down a flask.
Which fell to the ground but the surprise was that it did not shatter to small pieces like glass normally does ,instead , it cracked but all the pieces stayed in their places .
Edward’s curiosity led him to find out what the lazy assistance did and later on he discovered that the liquid solution (cellulose nitrate) which was in the flask evaporated and formed a thin film on the interior glass which protected the glass from shattering when it broke.
Through back that time automobile development was some how new and Benedictus found that his discovery could raise the safety of vehicles , and actually it is.
Until now it’s used in cars window shields , protective glasses , lab glasswares...etc.
Moving to london , 25 years later , on 3 September 1928 in the lab of the Scotch bacteriologist Alexander Fleming , one of the greatest discoveries of that time was about to be found.
Fleming has just returned from his summer vacation to continue his work on the petri dishes he left before in his lab.
As he observed the colonies of the Staphylococcus bacteria grown in the dishes , he noticed one strange thing.
A mold has grown in one of the dishes but the area around it was bacteria-free.
Fleming find out that the mold is releasing a substance (penicillium notatum) which is capable of killing a wide range of harmless bacteria.
Fleming published his findings in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in June 1929.
Now the attention was drawn into isolating the penicillin from the mold.
12 years later in 12 February 1941 , after a lot of experimenting and with the contribution of many scientists ,43-years old policeman Albert Alexander became the first recipient of penicillin.
After that plans were made to made penicillin available for British troops on the battle field , but due to the World War II , that was not so easy to achieve.
Some of the scientists who worked on the isolation and production of penicillin went to USA to see if they could interest the American pharmaceutical industry in the effort to produce penicillin on a large scale.
By march 1942 enough penicillin had been produced to treat the first patient.
Three years later in Britain , the unique feature of the structure was finally established and in that same year Alexander Fleming and two of his colleagues (Howard Florey and Ernst Chain) were awarded the Noble prize for their penicillin researches.
The first X-ray picture
Another Noble prize was awarded to a scientist who made a breakthrough in the medical field but again , by accident.
Around the year 1895 , the german scientist Wilhelm Röntgen was working on the effects of cathode rays which are generated using an experimental electrical discharge tube with partial vacuum called crooks tube.
During one of his experiments , Röntgen noticed that when he produced cathode rays , a barium platinocyanide plate - which is a type of mineral - was glowing.
Röntgen knew that those rays were producing an invisible radiation. He found that those radiations can pass through some materials and can not pass through others.
And immediately he knew that it will be a huge discovery with a massive contribution to the medical fields.
He continued experiments knowing that if he hesitate someone else will make the discovery due to the fact that crooks tube was the mystery that every scientist of his era was trying to solve.
The first picture taken using those rays was of Röntgen wife’s hand.
Using photographic plates , he took more pictures of various objects to taste those rays.
Later on , Röntgen named those radiations X-rays.
And the most recent coincident is the very popular “Blue Pill”.
In 1989 , Pfizer company was working on developing a drug to treat high blood pressure and angina (a chest pain associated with coronary heart disease).
And its scientist created sildenafil citrate for that.
In early 90s , they patented the drug and later on they tested it on humans , but a weird observation was reported from the nurses.
Most of the men in the experiment were uncomfortable and most of the time they were sleeping on their stomachs.
Researchers found that the drug has a side effects which was penile erection.
Erection is caused due to dilating of blood vessels which is the main purpose of the drug.
In 1998 , viagra was approved by FDA for use as an erectile dysfunction drug.
And that was the story of the drug who did its job but on a different organ.
Despite the fact that Knowledge , hard work and persistence play a main role in the development of man kind but we can’t ignore the significant contribution that coincidence make.
And who knows , an accident may get you a Noble prize!