Monday, March 19, 2012

Accidental Discovery: The Microwave

Sometimes I wonder about how the things I use on a daily basis were created.  One such item is the microwave.  I decided to type into the Google search engine, "creation of the microwave".  The history I found was a great surprise to me because the microwave was created due to an accidental discovery.  Scientist, Dr. Percy Spencer, was testing out a new vacuum tube the magnetron, and he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket melted.  He decided to test this consequence further by putting popping corn near the tube, and it popped!  He further tested the properties of the magnetron and created the microwave.

Sometimes important inventions to society are not created by actively searching for them (i.e. a box shaped contraption that quickly heats food), but by making observations.  Spencer made the observation that when he was by the magnetron, the candy bar melted.  He continued off of that observation and created a very useful kitchen appliance.  If Spencer did not have a candy bar in his pocket that day, we might not have microwaves around today.


  1. It is actually quite surprising how many discoveries have been made completely by accident. Reading your post made me interested in what other discoveries have been made on accident and what I found may surprise you. Here is what I found:
    Coka-Cola was invented by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton who was attempting to find the cure for headaches.
    Teflon was discovered in the search for CFCs which are used in refrigerators.
    Plastic was invented while american electronics companies were looking for alternatives for shellac as electronics insulation.
    Radiation was discovered when the physicist Henri Becquerel was attempting to study the natural fluorescence of rocks, but discovered radiation when his uranium rock imprinted its image on a photographic plate that was left in his lab drawer.
    Other discoveries made by accident include the Pacemaker, Penicillin, Dynamite, stainless steel, post-it notes, and everyones' favorite, the slinky!