Accidentally Awesome: 5 “Failed” Medicines That Yielded Unexpected Results
5 Potassium Bromide
Potassium bromide was widely used as a sedative and anticonvulsant in the 20th century, and remains in use to treat animals. It was isolated as a useful drug for these conditions by accident, though … it was originally “prescribed” to “treat” 19th-century masturbators. Once doctors realized bromide acted as a calming sedative, they forced it on those “afflicted” with the drive to masturbate, which was believed to cause epilepsy. Later on scientists realized there was no correlation between autoerotic acts, but that there was a correlation between taking potassium bromide and reducing seizures.
The year was 1895, and the man was W.C. Roentgen, a German physicist. Like most scientists of the day, W.C.R. was busy working away at a whole slew of crazy whatnot, sticking acids in jars and electrifying shrimp and such. Or maybe he was studying the effects of electrical current on various pressurized gasses. Roentgen noticed during one experiment that even after putting a thick paper covering over a cathode ray tube which he had filled with a gas and charged with current, he could still see a glow on a nearby screen. Next, he stuck his hand in front of the tube, and he could see his own damn bones. He had discovered the X-ray!
3 Polymerase Chain Reaction
The “polymerase chain reaction” is a method scientists can use to rapidly create millions of copies of a given sample of DNA, making testing and analysis much faster, simpler, and more accurate. And the man who came up with the process, Nobel prize winner Dr. Kary Mullis, attributes his findings to an acid trip. Seriously, we quote: “What if I had not taken LSD ever – would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”
A Canadian man named John Hopps accidentally invented the forerunner to the modern pacemaker in the late 1940s. Hopps was actually looking for a way to use concentrated radio waves to rapidly warm up someone suffering from hypothermia, but while testing his device on a dog (yeah, we know), he found that the pulses it sent out could stimulate the heart beat. And a whole lot of people have ended up not dead ever since.
Viagra has become as ubiquitous as aspirin these days, but if it weren’t for a happy accident, you’d still have a hell of a lot of unhappy older men (and women!) out there. You see, the drug that raised the hopes of millions of men was intended to lower the pain and risk of angina, an arterial and heart condition. The drug proved almost useless in dealing with that ailment, but many men who took part in the trial found another condition of theirs, ED, getting much better!