(1) Post-it notes
Post-it notes are to be found in every office these days, but their inventor was actually trying to create something that did the opposite of these versatile little bits of paper.
Instead of something that you can easily peel off, in 1968 Spencer Silver was engaged in developing a super strong glue for US company 3M. Although Silver saw a use for the new product, it took him six years to persuade anyone else to take is seriously and it wasn’t until 1980 that Post-its were launched officially.
The artificial sweetener only came about because a chemist called Constantin Fahlberg didn’t wash his hands before eating. In 1879 Fahlberg was experimenting with coal tar before going off to supper. At the table, he put a piece of bread into his mouth and discovered that it tasted strangely sweet, as did his fingers. Excited, he dashed back to his workbench and sampled the contents of all the beakers that he had been using.
He said later: “When I first published my researches, some people laughed as if it were a scientific joke…others proclaimed the work as being of no practical value.” How wrong were they.
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Chemists at Pfizer were working on a treatment for cardiovascular problems when, in 1991, the team discovered that patients in the trials were confiding that they were experiencing a surprising but not unwelcome side effect. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration seven years later, today global sales of Viagra total nearly $2bn annually.
Read on to find out which food and drink staples were the results of normal procedures gone wrong.
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