I have often wondered what it feels like to make a discovery that is so successful, it will revolutionize the world. As I work in a laboratory, I have been involved in a few patents, but from a patent to a ready made successful product is a very long way.
Often the best inventions are mistakes, something that was not meant to be. Experiments yield the unexpected results, but because someone with imagination and an inclination to see what others failed to see is present, ground breaking discoveries take place.
Such is the tale of the penicillin discovery by the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in 1928. He left a petridish opened by accident, and when he later found it with mould growing all over the agar, instead of discarding it, he noticed that the mould caused an inhibition of the bacteria growth. And the rest is history.
Or what about the post-it notes? At this point, there will be very few people in the world that have not heard of post-it; one of the most successful inventions to date and example of a created demand for a product. I definitely cannot imagine my life without these little "stick on notes". I use them all the time, everywhere. They are so practical and easy. The history of the post it is a mixture of a discovery of a (at that time) pointless adhesive and a need. Dr. Spencer Silver accidentally invented the adhesive in the 50's, while an employee at 3M. However, at the time of the invention, there was no apparent use for this weak glue and so the formula ended up in the company vault. There it was until the 70's, when Art Fry, another company employee needed to bookmark pages of a book without damaging them. He experimented with this long forgotten and discarded formula and ended up with a product that is today essentially used worldwide.