Top 5 serendipitous discoveries

7 Apr

5 – Sildenafil citrare, or Viagra

Discovered while looking for a drug to combat hypertension and angina. The observant guys at Pfizer noticed that instead of reducing blood pressure, they ended up with some excited guinea pigs. And thus, the blue pill was born. And cases of priapism skyrocketed.





4 – The Microwave 

The saviour of torpid chefs the world over. Percy Spencer walked past a radar tube with a chocolate bar in his pocket, which then melted. He then took it further, and developed it into the microwave oven. And presumably bought a new pair of trousers with the money he made, rather than cleaning melted chocolate goo out of the pocket.



3 – Brandy

Apparently brandy was invented when merchants distilled their wine to preserve it. The plan was to dilute the distilled wine later down the road and resell it as wine. But they discovered that this new distilled beverage, or ‘brandywine’, was scrumptious, and an alcoholic revolution was born. It even provided the name for a river in Middle Earth.







2 – the Slinky

Invented by Navy engineer Richard James, after he dropped a torsion spring and thought he could market it. The Slinky has sold over 300 million units, was used by the US Army as radio antennae in Vietnam, has been taken up into space by the Space Shuttle, and was famously straightened by Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters.




1 – Penicillin

I know, it’s a bit predictable. But penicillin has saved countless lives. And it so easily could never have been discovered. It was only the keen eye of Alexander Fleming that prevented it from being thrown away, and he worked tirelessly to synthesize it and produce it in bulk before the Second World War. If you didn’t know what a hero looked like…


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