Life as we know it is in constant motion, always changing and improving, never stagnant; and as far as modern inventions go—that’s all thanks to the creative inventors and entrepreneurs that continue to bring us ground breaking innovation. Countless hours go into the development of new products and equipment that make our everyday lives easier, and more enjoyable. Hard work isn’t the only thing that’s at play with new inventions and innovation—there’s also millions of dollars and people’s livelihood at play here.

However, that’s not ALWAYS the case! Some of the world’s best inventions were accidents and some were even created during the process of developing something completely different–I guess Mark Twain said it best. Take vulcanized rubber for example, it was developed by Charles Goodyear when he knocked over containers full of rubber, sulfur, and lead. When the solution hardened it became the first rubber resistant to high and low temperatures, making it perfect for car tires. Changing the world isn’t easy, but for some people, it strangely is. Who knows, you could be the world’s next greatest inventor…

Most of the items on this list will shock you, as some of them have become everyday household items that most of us couldn’t fathom living without. Due to the importance of many of the items on this list, it’s important to pay homage to those who created them, even if it’s only for a moment. The next 20 items represent the essence of innovation and creativity, and best of all it’s a quick and interesting read. You’ll start to ask yourself, “How did I not know this?” and by the end you’ll have some interesting facts to share at the office watering hole. Oh, and you’re going to love number 20…

20. Saccharin

Constantin Fahlberg, a Russian chemist, discovered saccharin which is chemical compound commonly used in alternative sugar sweeteners. The chemist was working for Ira Remsen, a well-known chemist at Johns Hopkins University at the time of the discovery. While developing coal tar derivatives, the sweetener was accidentally discovered when Fahlberg went home and forgot to wash his hands. His wife had baked some biscuits that happened to taste sweeter than normal and after much deliberation and investigation, he realized it was one of the chemicals on his hands. After another taste test at the lab the next day it was determined to be the compound known today as saccharin. The jury is still out on the debate about whether or not artificial sweeteners are a healthy alternative, but this accidental invention has changed the sugar game.

19. Smart Dust

One of the most important technological discoveries on this list is definitely the development of smart dust. University of California, San Diego is home to graduate student Jamie Link who created this amazing technology when developing a multi-layered silicone film. While working alongside her advisor Michael Sailor, the film suddenly broke. Making the best out of the circumstances, Link noticed that each broken piece maintained the original properties, thus being able to function properly. The original smart dust technology has made huge breakthroughs in medical procedures, development, drug delivery, environmental testing, and the list keeps growing. Link, being an outdoor enthusiast, is most excited for the environmental applications, “When I went down to Baja to test the polluted bay, I was shocked to see how dirty the water was. It made me realize how much we need tools like this”, according to the Universities website.

18. The Potato Chip

George Crum is the man we all have to thank for the crunchy, salty, satisfying treat that goes so great with an afternoon sandwich. That’s right—I’m talking about the potato chip. Crum worked as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge, in Saratoga Springs, NY when one day he made history books (the only ones I want to read, anyway). A customer repeatedly sent their fries back complaining they were too soggy, and Crum finally had enough. He sliced the potatoes extra thin, fried them to a crisp, dowsed them in salt, and sent them out. To his surprise, they were a hit—and now the average American eats FOUR pounds a year. Four pounds a year may be a bit much, but it’s no surprise considering how delicious they can be!

17. Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola quickly became a staple in the American culture after its accidental invention in 1886 by John Pemberton. He was a pharmacist that originally invented the formula to be a medication that he could patent and sell–a multipurpose cure if you will. The medication didn’t work so well but it became a tasty soft drink that had great commercial success after businessman Asa Griggs Candler marketed it. The original formula was intended to be a medication alternative to morphine, which Pemberton became addicted to after being injured in the American Civil War. As many advertisements did back then, the original, which was published in the Atlanta Journal, 1886 stated that the drink cured many illnesses, none of which turned out to be true.

16. Popsicles

Another American classic, the Popsicle, was an accidental invention that is part of everyone’s favorite summer season. The Popsicle was invented in 1905 during the soda pop revolution, when 11-year-old Frank Epperson froze his favorite carbonated drink. It was a cold enough night that when Frank left his creation outside, it froze; and in the morning, he tasted the sweet treat for the first time. He then declared it an Epsicle, naturally, and started selling the treat to neighborhood friends. Everyone around the US and the world, has been enjoying them ever since. Pictured is Epperson and his granddaughter enjoying one of his creations. 

15. Corn Flakes


Corn flakes are a staple of the American diet for many people in some form or another. They make a healthy breakfast with some almond milk and banana’s or even a flakey crust to coat just about anything in. Good ol’ Keith Kellogg was helping his brother cook at his place of employment one day when he stumbled upon the recipe for what we know as corn flakes. They were cooking meals for the residents of the Sanitarium when he left some bread dough out on the counter for a couple hours. The dried out dough was flakey, but he decided to see what would happen if he baked it anyway. The result—corn flakes!

14. Penicillin

Penicillin is the first antibiotic created in a lab, and it was actually discovered by surprise. What many people don’t know is that Alexander Fleming detected the effects of penicillin when he was studying staphylococcus. He added the bacteria to a few petri dishes and let them sit while he went on vacation over the weekend. Upon his return he found that instead of the bacteria multiplying, there was fungus growing, which means that it had killed the bacteria. The Penicillin mold spores were a byproduct that inhibited the growth of bacteria and lead to the development of Penicillin tablets as we know them today. Penicillin is one of the inventions on this list that has saved countless lives.

13. Play Doh

Many people have fond childhood memories of playing with Play Doh and it’s all thanks to Noah McVicker. In the 1930’s the family soap company decided to try and make wallpaper cleaner and started developing different concoctions. The substance was created out of water, flour, salt, boric acid, and mineral oil and it was meant to capture all the dirt off wallpaper without sticking to it and leaving a substance. The dough worked decently for wallpaper but was more entertaining than anything. The stuff you see in stores today has the addition of food coloring to make play time even more fun.

12. Super Glue

Another accidental invention that we can’t live without is super glue. Harry Coover, a researcher at Kodak Laboratories, was developing plastic lenses for gun sights. During the process he stumbled across a product that was sticky and made for a strong adhesive, which was made from cyanoacrylate. What’s interesting about the origin of super glue is that it was originally thought to be too sticky for actual use. It turns out that it works almost like magic, gluing almost anything permanently; just be careful not to glue your fingers or eyelids together—common childhood accidents. Pictured above is Harry Coover with President Obama.

11. Velcro

Keeping on the theme of useful inventions that were discovered accidentally, here is Velcro. The sticky and flexible adhesive is the invention of Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who was inspired on a walk in the forest with his dog. Many times when walking through nature burrs will stick to certain fabrics or animal furs, and it can be hard to get them out. The strength of the burrs is exactly what de Mestral recreated in his lab. He created Velcro—the combination between the words crochet and velvet. NASA picked up the fabric and made it known for mainstream consumption and sale.

10. Safety Glass

Safety glass has really enhanced the way we interact with glass products, increasing safety levels immensely. Édouard Bénédictus accidentally dropped his flask and noticed it didn’t shatter, and it called for further inspection. The flask had tiny cracks in it but no real damage had been done to the structure, which was something quite strange. While taking a closer look he found that the glass had been full of plastic cellulose nitrate, which coated the inside and protected it. We now use safety glass all over office windows and car windshields.

9. X-Ray

Can you imagine what we’d do without X Rays?! It would be a total nightmare as far as medical incidents go—broken bones would be a total disaster. In 1895 the x-ray was accidentally discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen when he was doing an experiment with cathode rays. The scientist noticed that even though there was a blockade preventing any light from the rays reaching a piece of cardboard across the room, it was fluorescent and lit up. The only explanation is that the light rays were traveling through the blockade and the technology discovered that day was eventually developed into modern x-ray machines.

8. Mauve Dye

Mauve is a color that represents a pale purple and is named after the mallow flower. There wasn’t a way to transfer the beautiful color to clothes or art before the mid 1800’s. The synthetic dye mauve was first created in 1859 by chemist William Henry Perkin, who was only 18 at the time. The chemist wasn’t trying to create anything to do with synthetic dyes, but rather a cure for malaria; he just happened to discover the color appearing in his petri dishes. The residue is what became the first aniline dye.

7. The Pacemaker

Another invention that has saved countless lives since its initial development is the pacemaker. American engineer Wilson Greatbatch was working on something else, a project of a different sort, when he stumbled upon the implantable pacemaker. He was trying to create a contraption that recorded human heartbeats when he used the wrong resistor, altering the function of the machine. The result was something that perfectly mimicked the natural rhythm of the human heartbeat. The inventor gave the world the pacemaker in the 1960’s and passed at age 92 in 2011.

6. Post-It Notes

Post-It notes are key to any office organization problem and the little sticky wonders are also great for many other purposes. In 1968 chemist Spencer Silver discovered low–tack adhesive while working for 3M. The adhesive was just strong enough to keep the paper on to whatever surface necessary, but didn’t leave a residue or tear the paper during removal. At first, the adhesive wasn’t an obvious sell and he couldn’t find a purpose for it until having a conversation with a colleague and they decided on Post-Its.

5. The Microwave

If you’ve ever used a microwave then you have Percy Spencer, a Navy radar specialist, to thank. The first microwave was sold in 1946 under the name “Radarange”. During the accidental developmental process of creating the microwave oven, Spencer spent many days in the lab messing around with microwave emitters trying to improve the power levels in radar sets. One day, when he was adjusting the microwaves he decided to have a snack, and when he reached in his pocket, he was struck with surprise. The peanut cluster bar that he had in his pocket had melted from the microwaves in the lab and it was then he realized what was happening. He continued to test his new creation with various foods and the rest is history.

4. The Slinky

Now, the slinky probably isn’t something that you use on an everyday basis, but at some point in your childhood I’m sure you played with one. I remember letting mine slowly fall from the top of the staircase all the way to the very last step at the bottom, watching it as if it had a life of its own. Navy engineer Richard James accidentally created the slinky when he was trying to design a way to protect vital instruments from moving and getting damaged during motion. After dropping a tension spring and noticing the bounce it had when it returned upright, the slinky was naturally and accidentally created in an instant.

3. Teflon

Roy Plunkett is the man to thank when it comes to cooking with Teflon coated pans and having a non-stick cooking experience. The American chemist created the chemical in 1938 when him and team were working for DuPont experimenting with refrigerants. The byproduct of a chemical reaction is essentially what we know today as Teflon—resistant to friction, stickiness, and high heat. Teflon changed the cooking industry immensely.

2. Plastics

Leo Hendrik Baekeland was born in 1863 in Ghent, Belgium but was an American chemist and inventor. He was the man to accidentally invent plastic, which was first called Bakelite. He was attempting to make synthetic shellac, which was used for insulation and originally made from East Asian beetles–making it expensive to reproduce. Instead of buying the expensive material he decided to develop an alternative, and discovered Bakelite. Bakelite didn’t experience physical change due to temperature change, like most plastics did. Although this was an immensely helpful invention, it’s up to us to use it responsibly.

1. Ice Cream Cones

It wasn’t until 1904 that the ice cream cone was invented and became everyone’s favorite on-the-go sweet treat. It was at the World’s Fair when an ice cream stall was selling so many orders that they were running out of bowls; when they looked next door and saw a waffle stand–the ice cream cone was born. They convinced the waffle guys to create a cone shape to hold their melting ice cream. The classic cone has been reinvented and devoured ever since.