Don’t you just love it when an already good thing turns out even better than you expected?
Many people don’t know this, but one of the most significant inventions – one used by countless people on a daily basis – was created completely by accident…
I’m talking about the microwave.
Physicist Percy Spencer worked for the defense contractor Raytheon during World War II, and earned several patents for improvements to radar transmitters for the U.S. military. His work would ultimately help to increase the range and efficacy of U.S. radar installations.
But that’s not the only improvement he made…
During one particular experiment in 1946, in which Spencer was trying to boost power levels of a radar device, he noticed that the peanut cluster bar had melted (some versions of the tale say it was a chocolate bar, but those closest to him will tell you that Spencer always carried a peanut cluster with him because he liked to feed squirrels. This is an important distinction because chocolate melts at a much lower temperature, meaning that being able to melt a peanut cluster with microwaves was much more noteworthy).
The next day, Spencer brought in corn kernels and placed them under the magnetron that projected the microwaves. Sure enough, the kernels popped, and Spencer shared the first-ever microwave popcorn with the entire office.
Thus, the microwave was born.
By 1975, more than 1 million microwaves were sold every year. Spencer’s discovery would prove to be incredibly impactful to the way we cook, even to this day.
D.R. Barton, Jr.