Scientific breakthroughs that were ‘accidents’

Medical Genetics

April 22, 2013     | Author: Freelance Writer Susan Borowski

Sir Alexander Fleming
Probably the most important “accidental” discovery was penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming (Image: Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain)

“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”

Although this is one of Tina Fey’s rules for improvisation, it can also apply to science. There are many inventions that we take for granted today that were born from “mistakes” or, to use a more positive phrase, “happy accidents.”

Most people are aware of the stories about the discoveries of penicillin and Post-it notes (which are detailed below), but others are less well-known. For example, the concept behind the thermal ink-jet printer was discovered by accident in 1977 when an engineer at Canon in Tokyo, Ichiro Endo, rested a hot soldering iron on a syringe which held ink, causing the syringe to eject the ink. This concept eventually became the mechanism behind the first…

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