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Surprising Stories of Accidental Inventions

From life-changing penicillin to the whimsical wonder that is Play-Doh.

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Necessity isn’t always the mother of invention. Sometimes it’s serendipity. Dive into these nine great reads about everyday innovations that were invented by accident, from life-changing penicillin to the whimsical wonder that is Play-Doh. Turns out even the color mauve came to us by chance.

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The Science of Serendipity

James Geary
Salon

Serendipity is credited with some of our most important discoveries, from penicillin to super glue. But what is it?

An Idea That Stuck

Jake Swearingen
New York

How a hunting trip led George de Mestral to invent the velcro fastener—a middle ground between buttons, zippers, and simply sewing stuff together.

The Real Story Behind Penicillin

Dr. Howard Markel
PBS

The discovery of penicillin, one of the first antibiotics, marks a true turning point. Many school children can recite the basics. But there is much more to the historic sequence of events.