Accidental Discoveries That Changed the World – 24/7 Wall St.


Serendipity is defined as an unforeseen event or discovery with a beneficial outcome. The word was coined by the English writer Horace Walpole in 1754, in reference to a story called “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The tale recounts the adventures of three princes who make accidental discoveries by luck rather than skill.

Accidental discoveries are not uncommon in the world of scientific research. Many useful substances, including Teflon and Scotchgard, were invented by chemists trying to create something for completely independent application. (The chemist who invented Scotchgard was a woman? Here Are 50 Inventions You Didn’t Know Were Invented By Women.)

Biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said that “the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny.’ “Funny,” is exactly what microbiologist Alexander Fleming said when he discovered that Penicillium mold had contaminated a petri dish and destroyed the bacteria he was experimenting with. His lab accident led to the discovery of penicillin, the world’s first widely effective antibiotic.

24/7 Tempo has compiled 31 accidental discoveries that changed the world by examining sources such as Story, Reader’s Digestand Business Intern. In some cases, an initial accidental discovery by one person led to a later invention by another. Only the initial discovery is told.

While a few are folk tales of early discoveries, the majority are inventions and discoveries made by scientists, engineers, doctors, and hobbyist inventors who were following one path when they came across another.

Many serendipitous discoveries have revolutionized the pharmaceutical and medical fields, while others have influenced the worlds of fashion, cosmetics, home appliances and children’s toys. Some of these happy accidents have dramatically improved daily life. (Here are also 30 NASA inventions that we still use every day.)

Click here to see the accidental discoveries that changed the world


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