Serendipitous Moments

ser·en·dip·i·ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

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Discovery of Wine

As fable would tell, the discovery of wine itself was in fact a ‘serendipitous’ discovery.  The ancient Persian story tells of a Princess who after being rejected by the King, tried to commit suicide by drinking what she thought was a poison.  In fact she was drinking the residue of table grapes that had rotted in a jar.  The fermented must instead of poisoning the girl, caused her to become intoxicated and giddy and she passed out.  She woke the next morning feeling like all her troubles had dissipated and that life was now worth living.  She returned regularly to the source of her relief and the king seeing her changed demeanour, restored her to a place of favour in his court.  She of course told the king of her discovery of the intoxicating qualities of the spoiled grape juice which he shared with his court and decreed an increase in production.

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Discovery of Penicillin

In 1928 Alexander Fleming a Scottish biologist discovered Pencillin whilst investigating a bacteria called staphylococci.  In September of 1928, he returned from holiday to find many of his bacteria culture dishes were moldy which was not surprising because as the story goes, he was not much of a housekeeper in his lab.  About to throw away the experiments he thought were ruined, he held one up to the light and realised something very interesting.  On one of the dishes the mold colonly had a clear zone around it where bacteria could not grow.  He identified the mold as Penicillium which has since led to the good health of millions worldwide.

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Discovery of Cornflakes

Cornflakes and wheat flakes were discovered by the Kelloggs brothers in 1898.  The brothers ran a famous hospital and health spa in Battle Creek, Michigan which stressed healthful living and kept its patients on a strict diet.  They invented many foods that were made from grains and on one occasion when they left cooked wheat unattended for a day and tried to roll the mass, they obtained a flaky material instead of a sheet.  The brothers baked the flakes and were delighted with their new invention which came out as a thin flake.  This flake was the initiation of a whole new industry which became known in time as Kellogg’s Cornflakes.

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Discovery of Botox

Botox was a discovery made by Canadian ophthalmologist Jean Carruthers who was treating a patient in 1987 for a rare eye disorder. Botox was used for the treatment, which was a largely unknown substance used for reducing activity in overactive muscles by blocking nerve impulses which caused excessive blinking.  The patient kept coming back to the doctor saying that each time she received an injection she thought she looked younger.  The doctor’s husband, a dermatologist, found this information fascinating and looked further into how Botox could be used to enhance people’s appearance. And the rest they say is history!

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Discovery of Microwaves

Most of us use microwaves in our kitchens every day but few of us would know that the discovery of the concept behind them, was a fortuitous accident.  In 1946, an engineer and inventor called Percy Spencer was involved in radar related research and noticed while testing a new type of vacuum tube – the magnetron, that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted.  Fascinated, he began conducting more experiments with other food products and concluded that each of the items had “cooked” when exposed to low-density microwave energy emitted by the magnetron.  Engineers quickly adapted this discovery and soon the very first commercial microwave oven arrived in the marketplace.

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The Nutrasweet

In 1965 James M. Schlatter, a researcher at G. D. Searle in Chicago, Illinois,  discovered the artificial sweetener aspartame (marketed as Equal and Nutrsweet) while trying to develop a drug for treating ulcers.  By chance he happened to lick his fingers which had been in contact with some spilt aspartame and discovered the powder tasted sweet.  Being a chemist, Schlatter knew that the powder is used by the human body as a protein, therefore is lower in calories than sugar and it didn’t take him long to work out aspartame’s potential as a calorie-free sweetener.  However it was 17 years before it became widespread because of concerns about its possible links to cancer.

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