The best ‘whoops!’ moments

Imagine trying to work on something and finding something unanticipated yet utterly amazing. This month, we’ll look at people who made amazing discoveries, quite by accident.

Illustration of John Walker with a lit match
Illustration: © Rama Ramesh

When an idea struck

We will never know who the first person to discover fire was, but we do know that matches made a glowing entry into this world.

John Walker was stirring a medley of chemicals in a pot when he noticed a dried lump sticking to the stirring stick.

How do you remove dried gob from something?

Walker rubbed the stick on a surface, trying to scrape it off when suddenly it ignited. That was all he needed to patent and sell matches in a box along with a piece of sandpaper.

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Rama Ramesh
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Rama Ramesh

Rama Ramesh is a creative writer who has written stories and features for children’s magazines and has co-authored a series of nanotechnology books for kids.