Who Invented Silly Putty


Silly putty is one of those inventions that were created entirely by accident. It’s been one of the most popular toys of the 20th century, but it came from a need to have synthetic rubber for the troops in World War II. Production of boots and tires was at an all-time high and there just wasn’t enough rubber to go around. That’s because Japan had attacked many of the rubber producing nations and cut off the supply. While working on an experiment to create synthetic rubber, inventor James Wright combined silicone oil with boric acid and created the famous goo.

No one knew what to do with this synthetic material. It bounced well, stretched further than rubber, and had high melting temperatures. It eventually found its way to a toy catalog in 1949 and became the #2 selling product of the year. Despite this, the toy company dropped the bouncing putty. Promoter Peter Hodgson repackaged the item, named it Silly Putty, and it became popular. You could even copy pictures of comics with it. A patent was issued in 1951.

What other inventions were created during research for a specific need? Here are 4 top accidental inventions for your consideration.

1. Rubber Substitutes

In 1899, inventor Orazio Lugo received a patent for a synthetic rubber substance that to be honest, isn’t quite synthetic or artificial rubber. That’s because it still contained a small amount of natural rubber product within it. What this invention did do, however, was lessen the need for natural rubber to be used to make similar products. Lugo’s invention could be heated up to 320F without failure and eliminate the need for sulfuric oils.

2. The Slinky

While trying to create a meter that could monitor the power of a naval battleship more effectively, Richard Jones began working with tension springs. During his work one day, he accidentally dropped one of the springs and it kept bouncing back and forth. That formed the foundation of the toy that can go down a flight of stairs all by itself.

3. Penicillin

What makes the discovery of Penicillin truly unique is that it was born out of failure. Sir Alexander Fleming was trying to create a wonder drug that could cure disease, but his efforts turned out to be a failure. He threw them away, but then came back one day to discover that one of his Petri dishes had mold that was dissolving all of the bacteria in the dish. He grew the mold on his own and antibiotics were invented.

4. Pacemakers

While conducting research about hypothermia, John Hopps had the idea that radio frequencies could be used to warm the body up. As he began to experiment with this idea, he realized that a heart which stopped because of hypothermia could be started again if it was stimulated in an artificial way. An electrical charge was included and the pacemaker was born.