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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > August 2016 > Top 10: Accidental Discoveries

Top 10: Accidental Discoveries

A great deal of hard work, time and frustration goes into world-changing discoveries – not to mention a wink from lady luck

Whoops to Wow!


Scientists should know to wash their hands when working with chemicals, but one Russian’s less-than-fastidious hygiene turned out to be a sweet surprise. After a day, in 1878, analysing uses of coal tar at Johns Hopkins University, chemist Constantin Fahlberg went home for dinner.

Thinking the food tasted sweeter than normal, he realised there were traces of a compound left on his fingers. Fahlberg had discovered saccharine, an artificial sweetener. He discreetly lodged some highly lucrative patents.

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About History Revealed

August 2016 issue of History Revealed.