The most Important Accidental Scientific Discoveries

Serendipity is the basis of of many important accidental scientific discoveries. Serendipitous discoveries seemed to be common in Pharmacology and Chemistry. “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”-Louis Pasteur

Penicillin is an important accidental scientific discovery by Alexander Fleming. He left for vacation without disinfecting the cultures of bacteria. Later he found those culture of bacteria with the contamination of Penicillin molds. Those molds destroyed his original culture of bacteria. Penicillin was being discovered accidentally.

Luis Pasteur inoculated some chickens with cholera bacteria. It should have destroyed the chickens. Pasteur might have picked up an old culture. The chickens recovered. He tried again with the same process with a new set of culture. But the chickens stayed healthy. The process of inoculation against the dangerous diseases was discovered by accident.

Gelignite was discovered by Alfred Nobel. He mixed Collidium(gun cotton) with nitroglycerin accidentally.

Synthetic polymer celluloid was an accidental discovery by Alexander Parkes, a British chemist and metallurgist in 1856. He observed that a solid residue remnant after the evaporation of the solvent from the photographic  collodion. Celluloid seemed to be the first plastic for making solid objects .

British chemist William Ramsay discovered chemical element Helium . He was looking for the argon(gas).

Scotch-Gard is being used to protect leather and fabrics from moisture. It was discovered accidentally by Patsy Sherman in 1953. She was researching chemical compounds. One of the compounds did not disintegrate after the aircraft fuel spill. When the compound spilled on the Tennis shoe, it did not wash out. So she discovered that the spill as a protection against the moisture.

James Wright was researching for finding a substitute for rubber during World War II. He discovered silly putty.

Rayon, the earliest synthetic silk was discovered by French chemist Hilaire de Chardonnet, . He dropped a bottle of Collodion, and stumbled on the fact that he could draw a thin strands from the evaporated viscous liquid.

William Hirschel, astronomer was looking for the comets. He found the planet Uranus. He thought it was a comet first. Later he noticed the circular orbit behavior.

Cosmic Gamma -ray bursts were discovered during late 1960s by US Vela Satellites which were built to detect Soviet Union nuclear tests .

The rings of Uranus were discovered by astronomers, Edward W.Dunham, James L.Elliot and Douglas J.Mink by accident. They were using a star (SAO 158687) close  to Uranus to study the planet’s atmosphere. But the star disappeared five times from the view both before and after the process of eclipse by Uranus.They concluded that a set of narrow rings was present.

Electromagnetism was an accidental discovery by Hans Christian Orsted. He was preparing his materials for lecture. He noticed that a compass needle was deflecting from the magnetic north when the battery current is being switched on and off.

High temperature super conductivity was discovered serendipitously by the physicists Johannes Georg Bednorz and Karl Alexander Muller. They were looking for a material which would be perfect insulator(non conducting). They won Nobel prize for their discovery (Physics)in 1987.

Radioactivity was discovered by Henri Becquerel. He was studying phosphorescent with the photographic plates . He found uranium.

X-rays was an accidental discovery by Wilhelm Roentgen. He was interested in studying the cathodic ray tubes. He observed that some fluorescent papers in his labs were being lit at a distance. But his equipment had an opaque cover.

Frederick Banting, a Canadian doctor and professor John J.R. MacLeod from Toronto university were awarded Nobel prize for their work of separation and clinical use of Insulin against diabetes. Their work with insulin was a sequel of the chance discovery of the link between pancreas and blood sugar levels by another two doctors from the other countries across the Atlantic ocean , during earlier decades.

Dr. George N.Papa Nicalou was carrying on the genetic study of cancerous cells. He was studying the cancerous cells on a slide having a woman’s specimen from the uterus which led to the origin of routine ” Pap smear ” test . He was surprised to discover that the abnormal cancreous cells could be studied under microcope. “Pap smear” is a simple test which saves the lives of women from one form of Cancer.

“The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take roots in minds well prepared to receive them.” quoted – American physicist, Joseph Henry.