In 1879, Louis Pasteur inoculated some chickens with cholerabacteria. It was supposed to kill them, but Pasteur or one of his assistantshad accidentally used a culture from an old jar and the chickens merelygot sick and recovered.
Later, Pasteur inoculated them again with a freshculture that he knew to be virulent, and the chickensdidnt even get sick. Chance had led him to discover theprinciple of vaccination for disease prevention.
X-raysWilhelm Roentgen was experimenting with electrical discharges one evening at the University of Wurzburg in 1895. There was a screen coated with a barium compound lying to one side, and Roentgen noticed that it would fluoresce when an electrical discharge would occur in the tube he was watching.
On reaching for the screen, Roentgen got his handbetween the discharge tube and the screen and saw thebones of his own hand through the shadow of his skin. In1901, Roentgen received the Nobel prize for hisaccidental discovery of X-rays.
Alexander Fleming was a young bacteriologist at St. MarysHospital in London in 1928. One day in his cluttered laboratory, henoticed that a culture dish of bacteria had been invaded by a moldwhose spore must have drifted in through an open window.
Under the microscope, he saw that, allaround the mold, the individual bacteriathat he had been growing had burst. Hesaved the mold, and from it produced thefirst penicillin.
In May, 1886, Coca Cola was invented by Doctor John Pemberton apharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia. The soft drink was first sold to the public atthe soda fountain in Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886.About nineservings of the soft drink were sold each day. Sales for that first year addedup to a total of about $50. The funny thing was that it cost John Pembertonover $70 in expanses, so the first year of sales were a loss. Until 1905, thesoft drink, marketed as a tonic, contained extracts of cocaine as well as thecaffeine-rich kola nut.
In 1887, another Atlanta pharmacist and businessman, Asa Candler bought the formula for Coca Cola from inventor John Pemberton for $2,300. By the late 1890s, Coca Cola was one of Americas most popular fountain drinks, largely due to Candlers aggressive marketing of the product. With Asa Candler, now managing the business, the Coca Cola Company increased syrup sales by over 4000% between 1890 and 1900 .
Advertising was an important factor in John Pemberton andAsa Candlers success and by the turn of the century, the drinkwas sold across the United States and Canada. Around the sametime, the company began selling syrup to independent bottlingcompanies licensed to sell the drink. Even today, the US softdrink industry is organized on this principle. In 1985, the trade secret "New Coke" formula wasreleased. Today, products of the Coca Cola Company areconsumed at the rate of more than one billion drinks per day
Science has coined the phrase, "the Principle of LimitedSloppiness" to describe accidental discoveries such asthese. Maybe their time has passed. Certainly, there is noplace in, say, the space program for "limited sloppiness."Although the mad scientists or eccentric inventors sooften portrayed in old movies are still good for laughs,thats not what were talking about here. Surely the needstill exists for the imaginative, the inventive, and theunshackled experimenter.