10 Accidental Scientific Discoveries and Breakthroughs

Inadvertent discoveries in a laboratory have led to some of the most important scientific breakthroughs.

research group can make huge mistakes in the laboratory, which can lead to costly financial losses. This is after they have invested considerable time, money, and effort into a failed venture. Sometimes lab workers are lucky enough to discover a breakthrough or scientific principle that would not otherwise be known. Here are ten of the greatest scientific discoveries that happened by chance.


It was an accident that led to one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history. Sir Alexander Fleming took a two-week vacation to stop his influenza experimentation. When he returned, he discovered that the virus had been stopped by a mold. Penicillin was created and can be used to treat everything, from acne to pneumonia.


Pfizer originally set out to develop angina treatment. However, their prototype drug caused erections in the men who tested it. Pele was later to launch a quick PR campaign.


Leo Baekeland (a Belgian scientist) accidentally created plastic a little more than a century ago. The scientist, originally naming the mixture formaldehyde-phenol after himself, Bakelite revolutionized production and manufacturing.

The Microwave

Percy Spencer was an engineer who was trying to find energy sources to power radar equipment as WWII was coming to an end. Although it didn’t go according to plan, Spencer realized that the chocolate bar in his pocket was melted and decided to try his invention by making popcorn.


Robert Chesebrough, a fantastically named man, was so infatuated with Vaseline when he discovered it that he began using it for many purposes and even consuming a teaspoon every day. Chesebrough was initially on the lookout for oil before petroleum jelly became known.

Strikeable Match

John Walker, an English pharmacist, accidentally drank a large amount of his new antimony sulfide/potassium chlorate mixture. This was the culmination of an incredible series of events. He tried to get rid of it but it burst into flames. This was a frightening, but amazing breakthrough.


Scientists trying to make something similar to the final product are responsible for most of these accidental discoveries. But 9th Century Chinese alchemists could not have been more wrong when they accidentally created gunpowder. They were searching for an elixir for eternal life.


Although Mauve might not be the most popular color in the world, William Perkins, a teenage chemistry student, was delighted to accidentally create it with tree bark and coaltar. Perkins was able to isolate the color and create the first synthetic dye in the world.

Corn Flakes

Corn Flakes are the daily breakfast of millions around the globe. They were created by Will Keith Kellogg, who accidentally put some wheat on the boil. A dynasty was formed when the world’s most well-known cereal was invented.


People who attended ‘laughing parties” in the 1800s abused both ether and Nitrous Oxide. After the laughter stopped, someone suggested that the substance could be used to mask pain. Thus, anesthesia was created.