The most Important Accidental Scientific Discoveries

There have been many accidental scientific discoveries through the ages. Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny.'”

Here are a few accidental discoveries that didn’t make my most important list:

Luigi Galvani observed an electrical circuit while he was investigating nerves in frog legs in 1791; he also related electricity to nerve impulses.

Several experimenters discovered artificial sweeteners while trying to create something else; saccharin was discovered in 1879 followed by acesulfame, cyclamate, and aspartame (NutraSweet) in the 1960s.

Hilaire de Chardonnet discovered the first synthetic silk fabric, rayon.

Wilson Greatbach discovered the pacemaker.

Patsy Sherman discovered Scotchguard moisture repellent in 1953.

Post-it notes were almost a throw away for 3M because their researchers were looking for super glue instead of an impermanent glue that didn’t leave a residue. Velcro was an accidental discovery.

Minoxidil was used to treat hypertension when researchers noted that bald patients grew hair. Viagra was also used to treat hypertension when researchers discovered that it solved erectile dysfunction.

The discovery of two planets, Uranus and Pluto were accidental as were the discovery of the elements iodine and helium.

But (may I have a drum roll please) the most important accidental scientific discoveries of all time were:

Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the principle of vaccination for disease prevention in 1879 Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of the X-Ray in 1895. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of the antibiotic penicillin in 1928 William Perkin’s discovery of a synthetic dye in 1856 which led to Paul Ehrlich’s synthetic medicines in the fields of immunology and chemotherapy Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double helix DNA molecule. Charles Goodyear’s accidental discovery of vulcanized rubber that made it easier to use rubber Hendrik Baekeland’s discovery of Bakelite and plastic in 1907 The discovery of stainless steel that prevents rust in 1913. Isaac Newton’s discovery of the laws of motion and gravitation; air and space travel depend on these discoveries.

Most of these discoveries were medical breakthroughs that allowed man to cure disease and bone breaks and to decrease child mortality and increase how long a person can live. Lest you think that all accidental scientific discoveries are good for mankind, LSD and thalidomide were harmful discoveries. Some might consider the discovery of Viagra to be harmful since it resulted in a lot of spam email. Some discoveries were not harmful but their use was. Baby Boomers remember when fluorescent machines were used to check how well shoes fit us in shoe stores.