Richard James, a naval engineer, invented the Slinky in 1943. James was designing a meter to monitor power on battleships when one of the tension springs he was working with fell to the ground. The spring began to "step" end over end before eventually stopping upright. This was the birth of a classic childhood toy. Slinky was slow to become a hit until James demonstrated it in a Gimbels store in 1945. His entire inventory (400 units) sold out in 90 minutes.
Touted as a "brain tonic," an Atlanta pharmacist named John Pemberton invented Coke in 1885. When Atlanta banned the sale of alcohol, Pemberton created a coca-based syrup, mixed it with carbonated water, and sold it as a soda.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
One day in 1930, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, began making chocolate cookies. While preparing the dough she discovered she was out of baker's chocolate. She decided to substitute sweetened chocolate broken into pieces and added it to the dough. She expected the chocolate to melt, making chocolate cookies. Instead, the pieces melted where they were in the dough. The result was the first batch of Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.
In the summer of 1853, a diner at Carey Moon Lake House in Saratoga Springs, NY kept sending his French fries back to the kitchen. The diner wanted them thinner and crispier. Head chef George Crum eventually lost his temper, cut the potatoes paper thin, and fried the slices until they were extremely hard. The diner loved them.
In 1946, an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, Percy Spencer, was conducting a radar-related research project with a new vacuum tube. While he was experimenting with the tube, he noticed that a candy bar started melting in his pocket. Spencer quickly grabbed a handful of popcorn kernels and held them near the device. Within minutes, the kernels began to pop. Spencer's invention helped speed up meal preparation time for cooks worldwide.
Spencer Silver discovered a "low tack" adhesive while working for 3M Laboratories in 1968. This adhesive allowed paper to stick to another surface and be removed without damaging either surface. Remarkably, the adhesive could be used over and over again. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a marketable use for it. Years later, his colleague Art Fry realized that it would be perfect as a non-slip bookmark. The Post-It note was born.
Kellogg's Corn Flakes
In 1898, two brothers named John and Will Kellogg were attempting to make granola by boiling grain. They accidentally left the pot of boiled grain on the stove for several days before realizing. The grain mixture was moldy, thick, dry, and crispy. After experimenting a few times, they found a way to get rid of the mold and created this staple of breakfast cereals.
While trying to develop a rubber material that would not deteriorate when exposed to jet fuel, Patsy Sherman, a chemist for 3M, discovered Scotchgard in 1953. One day, an assistant accidentally dropped the experimental mixture on Sherman's shoe. Days later, she noticed that the spot where the mixture fell looked clean, like new, while the rest of her shoe became dirty. A perfect stain and water-repellent product, Scotchgard now protects many surfaces.
After a walk with his dog, George De Mestral sat down to pick burs out of the dog's fur. He wondered how these little burs could adhere so tightly. Examining the bur under a microscope, he found it lined with tiny hooks and loops that helped it attach to clothing and pet fur. With the hook-loop concept in mind, he experimented with many materials trying to find a stronger bond. In 1955, De Mestral decided on nylon and called it Velcro.
In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming was attempting to find a drug that would cure certain diseases. After not having any success, he threw many of his experiments away. A few days later, he noticed that the mold in one of the discarded petri dishes was dissolving all of the bacteria around it. Fleming used this mold to create penicillin, a powerful antibiotic that has tremendously reduced the death rate of infectious diseases.
Albert Hofmann, a chemist from Basel, Switzerland, accidentally discovered this psychedelic drug in 1938. While researching lysergic acid derivatives in a lab, he unintentionally swallowed a small amount of LSD and earned the dubious honor of experiencing the first acid trip in history.
Frank Epperson was 11 years old when he discovered the popsicle in 1905. Soda had recently become popular, and little Frank wanted to try to make his own at home. He combined powder and water in a container and absentmindedly left it outside all night. That night, the temperature dropped sharply and when he found mixture the next morning, it had frozen solid. The stirring stick was still in it.
Ironically, Play-Doh was a paste created to be a cleaning product. Its expected use was for cleaning filthy wallpaper. This did not prove to be a success. However, Kutol Products soon discovered that schoolchildren were beginning to use it to create Christmas ornaments as arts and crafts projects. The company removed the compound's cleanser, added colors and a fresh scent, and created one of the most iconic toys of all time.