People tend to make mistakes, it’s something natural and normal on a day to day basis.
What’s less natural is how these these errors can be accepted and turned to profit. Nevertheless, throughout history many of the greatest discoveries ever were made by accident, mistake, oversight; in other words, they were unwanted. Let’s have a look at the most outstanding ones:
- The microwave. The quintessential accidental discovery, made by an engineer named Percy Spencer, who was working with an apparatus that transmiited high-frequency waves and noticed that the bar of chocolate in his pocket had melted. Could there be any sweeter mistake?
- Penicillin. Continuing with historical errors, take the famous scientist Alexander Fleming, who we are probably talking about now thanks to his absent-mindedness. Who would have said that an oversightcould save so many lives? After forgetting about some bacterial cultures that he was investigating in his lab, on his return a few days later he realized that they had been killed by some fungus, and he named the substance that had caused it penicillin. The rest is history.
- Vulcanization. This process serves to improve rubber and make it more durable and resistant, to the point that the material can be used in such diverse sectors as the production of tires or the soles of shoes. Guess how it was discovered? By accident. Charles Goodyear was looking for a way to make rubber more resistant, but he never managed it until one day when a container of sulfur and rubber fell on a stove, he observed how the resulting composition possessed the very characteristics he had been looking for. His discovery of vulcanized rubber was a great success.
There have been many other accidental discoveries, but what we would like to remember, in addition to their scientific and technological value, is the hidden meaning behind them. To err is human, but all errors are also capable of being exploited for positive results, be it a lesson learned or a discovery.
Knowing how to benefit from our own mistakes is what permits us to achieve the best results.
And to conclude, a sentence to think about:
“He who avoids failure also avoids success“. Francisco Alcaide Hernández