8 Significant Discoveries By Chance.

by Joy Festus
5mins read

Ever heard of the word “Eureka”?, this is the aha effect as a result of a sudden sense of insight upon making a realization. Major eureka moments were accidental discoveries that has led to world-changing ideas and inventions.

Quite a lot of scientific discoveries require an excellent amount of ingenuity but some added good fortune. This good fortune coupled with readiness, opportunity and drive gives birth to accidental discoveries.


This article will be taking you on a tour of some selected scientific and technological breakthroughs which have brought about a shifting of our perception. It also covers the work of significant figures and unfamiliar heroes. They are as follows:

1. Mauveine, the first synthetic organic dye created.

William Henry Perkin, a British chemist, while performing some experiments in a crude Laboratory for the synthesis of quinine in treating malaria, accidentally discovered that aniline could be transformed into a crude mixture, which would produce a substance with purple colour when extracted with alcohol. He did further trials and scaled up the production of the purple substance and commercialized it as a dye known as Mauveine. At that time, he was 18yrs, all the dyes used for colouring were natural substances.


2. Penicillin, the first naturally derived antibiotics.

Alexander Fleming spent a vacation with his family after inoculating several cultures with salmonella aureus at St Mary’s hospital, London. After a month, he returned and found out that one of the cultured samples had an open lid and was contaminated with a blue-green mould. In the contaminated sample, bacteria was absent around the mould while those further were thriving, which meant that the mould had killed the bacteria around it. He concluded that the mould was releasing an inhibiting substance to the bacteria.



3. Hydrostatics

Archimedes of Syracuse applied mathematics to physical phenomena when he was asked to determine if a golden crown had been adulterated with silver without damaging the crown. He resorted to calculating its density in a tub of water while having his bath. He submerged the crown since water is an incompressible material and calculated the volume of displaced water as its weight. He was able to know if it was pure gold or not, since gold has a higher density than most metals. From that experience, he propounded that a body immersed in a fluid would experience a buoyant force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced.


4. Saran , Polyvinylidene Chloride.

This famous food wrap was discovered in a lab when Ralph Wiley had trouble washing beakers used during the production of a dry-cleaning product. At first, it was developed into a spray for military use but was later changed into a thin clingy plastic wrap sold in rows for wrapping and preserving food items to be stored in the fridge.

Saran Discoveries

Dinner wrapped for storage.

5. Gravitational Pull

Isaac Newton was sitting in his yard during the shutdown of his university due to a plague outbreak. He noted that an apple that fell from a tree beside him fell perpendicularly to the ground. He wondered why the apple never fell to the side or upward. He discovered that one of the properties of matter was to have an attractive force, which led to the theory of gravity.


6. Microwave Oven

Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer, invented it from radar technology, luckily, when he noticed that the microwaves of an active radar set melted a candy bar he had in his pocket while working on radioactivity. He verified his findings by cooking popcorn in a machine which exploded in the face of one of his experimenters.


7. Guncotton

Christian Fredrick Schönbein, a German chemist, discovered guncotton by chance in his wife’s kitchen. He used her cotton apron to clean up some spilled sulfuric and nitric acid. It wore away and led to the discovery of nitrocellulose a.ka. guncotton.


8. Electromagnetism

Michael Faraday, an English Physicist and chemist’s major contribution was in the field of electricity and magnetism.He wound a thick iron ring with insulated wire on the other side, then connected it to a battery and a galvanometer. He expected that a wave would be produced when the battery circuit was closed and the wave would be deflected on the galvanometer, but to his surprise, after closing the primary circuit, the galvanometer’s needle moved, showing that the secondary coil had been induced by a current in the primary coil.

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