Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, September 5, 2017



by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Some of the longest lasting inventions or discoveries in history came about either entirely by accident or were meant for other purposes. Here are a surprising few:


You can thank John Stith Pemberton’s morphine addiction for Coca Cola. A pharmacist from Atlanta, he set about trying to break his terrible addiction by developing a new drug to treat the habit. He tried one combination after another until he came up with a thick syrup made from coca leaves, caffeine, a kola nut extract, vegetable extracts, and plain sugar. Initially sold from his pharmacy, this medicine soon became quite popular. One day a waiter, nearly out of the medicine, but needing to finish his shift, diluted the syrup with a sparkling water as an extender, and voila! Pemberton officially branded Coca-Cola in 1887 under the federal trade registry.


San Francisco native, Frank Epperson, concocted a drink made up of powdered soda and water. One night in 1905, he accidentally left a jar of his favorite drink outside in the coldest night of the year. Popping his head out the door the next morning, he discovered his drink had frozen around the wooden stick he’d used to stir the concoction. In 1924, he patented the “Epsicle Ice Pop.” Several years later his children encouraged their “Pop” to rename his invention the Popsicle.


In 1943, Richard James, an American naval engineer, had the assignment of developing large springs to transport fragile engineering instruments aboard water going vessels. As the springs were being loaded onto a ship, one of the springs fell out of the box. Down the steps it went with James scrambling after it. What a sight! His co-workers thought the whole incident hilarious. James went home, and over dinner, told his family about his day at work. One of his children said he wanted one to play with. It was then that James decided to patent the idea as a toy, and the Slinky was born.


Teflon pans actually came into existence way back in 1938 when Roy Plunkett, a chemist, began experimenting with refrigerants. He ran across a pipe in his laboratory filled with a frozen compound called tetrafluoroethylene. Curious as to why no gas had escaped, he began playing with the tube. When he shook it, he noticed that small white fragments had stuck to the surface. That’s when Teflon was born.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, was invented in 1776 by Joseph Priestly. His invention was used for entertainment at parties, and at the fairgrounds. Dr. Horace Wells, an American dentist, was attending one of Priestly’s wild parties. He figured out that when under the influence of this gas, that people were numb to pain. Doctor Wells returned to America, and in 1844, he began using the gas on his patients as an anesthetic.


Did you know that before the invention of the erasure, people used breadcrumbs to eradicate ink stains? Back in 1770, Edward Naime, an Englishman, accidentally mistook rubber tree resin for breadcrumbs and found it worked better than bread crumbs. Soon, he began selling rubber erasers. It wasn’t until much later that Kaspar Faber, a German pencil maker, figured out a way to attach an erasure directly onto his pencils.


A French doctor, Rene Laennec, discovered a new method of listening to the heartbeats of his weightier patients by watching children playing with a needle stuck into a wooden plank. The sound resonated from one side of the beam to the other. Dr. Laennec had the idea to fix the wooden plank with the needle attached inside a tube, and the first stethoscope was born. The round wooden tube was placed on the patient’s chest, and the doctor placed his ear on the opposite end. Eventually, the round wooden tube was dramatically changed to what it looks like today.


Dom Perignon, a Benedict Monk living in a monastery in Hautvilliers, France, discovered the secret of in-bottle fermentation quite by accident. He was looking for an alternative to wooden corks for wine when he tried pouring beeswax into the neck of the bottle. A few weeks later, pressure built up inside the bottles and they exploded. The contents bubbled out over the top of the bottle and the good old monk tried catching the bubbly with his tongue. This is when he discovered the sparkling wine’s delicious effervescence.

Kathleen Bittner Roth creates evocative stories featuring characters forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. A PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Kathleen was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. 

You can find Kathleen at:

Website:          www.kathleenbittnerroth.com
Twitter:           @K_BittnerRoth
Pinterest          https://hu.pinterest.com/bittnerroth/

1 comment:

Barbara Bettis said...

Absolutely fascinating, Kathleen! Enjoyed especially the monk's tale. When my brother tried fermenting grape juice when he was in high school, his experiment didn't turn out so happily. I still remember my mother's face when the container exploded.