Necessity may be the mother of invention, but I’d put forth that so are happy accidents. It’s kind of nuts how many things we take for granted today that were originally developed by someone trying to do something totally different from what their groundbreaking inventions actually got used for.
And that’s good news for us!
Pacemakers have been around for a while, but they used to be pretty clunky until a gentleman named Wilson Greatbatch, picked up the wrong resistor one day while working on an audio recording device. This resulted in the device giving off a rhythmic pulse which he realized could be used as an implantable pacemaker!
While the Kotex brand was indeed developed to sell sanitary pads to women, the company was really just trying to find a use for the leftover cellucotton fiber from World War I bandages.
3. Chewing gum
Although mankind has been chewing sticky/chewy natural resins and saps for most of recorded history, modern chewing gum was developed when an American businessman was looking to use Mexican chicle as a rubber substitute. It didn’t work for those purposes, but succeeded hugely as a candy!
Remember when you were a kid, how your mother always had a tin of cold cream on her dresser? Believe it or not, Kleenex was originally marketed as a way to remove cold cream from your face. Once that market shrank, they pivoted towards more general applications and dominated the market.
5. Bubble wrap
Bubble wrap is everyone’s favorite stress reliever and packaging material, but it was originally developed and marketed as a wallpaper. When that didn’t work, they tried selling it as greenhouse insulation and, eventually, as packaging material.
Listerine was originally invented by Dr. Joseph Lister as a way to sanitize surgical tools and reduce post-surgery infection rates. It was also sold as a floor cleaner for a while before settling on its currently use as destroyer of bad breath and preventer of the dreaded gum disease gingivitis.
These days, Coca-Cola is famous for its thirst-quenching properties and the fact that its devoid of almost any actual benefit to your body whatsoever, but it was originally invented as a medicinal tonic to aid with morphine addiction! Back then it was made with actual coca, so it made a little bit of sense.
Play-Doh is an essential part of childhood these days, but it was originally formulated to clean coal soot from wallpapers. As people switched to gas heating and washable vinyl wallpapers were developed, there was no longer any need for the putty, but its makers were saved from bankruptcy when they realized it could be sold as a children’s toy.
The corkscrew is one of those things that just seems like a no-brainer. It’s literally in the name, how could it possibly have been for anything else? Well… modern corkscrews owe their design to a device called a “gun worm,” used to remove stuck bullets from muskets during battle.