Of course, we can't discuss accidental inventions without mentioning one of medicine's most important advancements -- the discovery of penicillin. But it's this fungus group's rocky beginning that makes its success hard to believe.
Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist, first put penicillin on the map after an incident in his lab. After returning from a two-week vacation in 1928, Fleming noticed that one of his petri dishes was the new home of a mysterious mold. Strangely, Fleming observed that existing bacteria in the dish did not grow where the mold grew, indicating its potential in staving off unwanted microorganisms. Fleming isolated, classified and described the mold. Producing large amounts of the mold, however, proved to be a difficult task.
Because of this, Fleming's accidental discovery wasn't used for treatment right away. It may have slipped into obscurity if not for other researchers.
Nearly 13 years after Fleming's accidental encounter with penicillin, Howard Florey, Norman Heatley and Andrew Moyer catapulted penicillin into the spotlight again when they switched the type of mold used to one that grew better, producing enough to test medical treatments. Since then, penicillin has been used around the world, saving many lives along the way.
Although it may have been difficult in the past to imagine the next big cure stemming from mold growing in a petri dish, the collaboration and open minds of penicillin's first scientists paid off.
Our last accidental invention involves laughing and pain -- can you guess what it is? Click on to find out more.