As everything in life, even though wars bring death and despair, there are also some aspects that can be considered good. World conflicts seem to determine people to study new technologies and create better items for our survival. Thus several inventions created by war have become usual objects that we use nowadays. Some of them have been discovered by accident, while others were the result of research with a little twist. The following top comprises some of the most unexpected origins for common items in our households, that maybe some of you have never given thought to.
1. Duct Tape
Let us begin with one of the most useful inventions created by war: duct tape. During the Second World War, the U.S. Military realized they needed a way to seal the ammunition they were transporting. Thus, the Johnson and Johnson company modernized what was then medical tape and created a waterproof tape, that is now named duct tape. It used to be called “duck tape” by the soldiers because of its ability to repel water. After the war, its color was changed from army green to gray and it started being sold to the grand public.
2. Super Glue
Cyanoacrylates or super glues were discovered accidentally during the same war. They were not created to seal wounds back together, but to make a transparent gun sight for rifles. Harry Coover was the one to discover super glue during his research. However, since it did not serve his current purpose, he discarded the newly found formula. Coover re-discovered the sticky substance a couple of years later during another research. While working for Eastman Kodak, the scientist and his colleague Fred Joyner saw the huge commercial potential of super glue and managed to place it on the market. In the end, it seems the substance was used to seal various wounds of soldiers in the Vietnam War, until they could reach a medical facility.
3. Radar Systems
Although quite common these days, radars are among the inventions created by war. The first system was developed of course during World War II by Robert Wattson-Watt. The researcher worked with several discoveries on the matter and thus managed to use radio transmitters in order to obtain an echo from a plane. Radio waves could simply bounce off it and transmit its position, even if the airplane was 100 miles away. Wattson-Watt presented his invention to the Royal Air Force which used it to win the Battle of Britain in 1940.
4. The Microwave
Another common item many of us have in our homes is the microwave, and we have to thank the same war for this discovery. Percy Spencer was researching radar technology when he noticed that the chocolate bar he had previously placed in his pocket was melting. This gave him the idea that the microwave technology could be focused on a single spot and thus rapidly cook food. The first microwave was produced in 1947, but it did not reach popularity right away. Only after the machines became smaller and cheaper did they start finding their places in more and more homes.
5. The Slinky
Many inventions created by war were discovered during research. This was also the case of the slinky. Richard James was an engineer who tried to crate a system for supporting and stabilizing sensitive equipment that was transported on ships. He first created a couple of tension springs. One day, he accidentally knocked over one of the boxes containing these springs. As a result, he could not help but notice the object that kept moving on its own, and thus see its potential as a toy for children. The Slinky became extremely popular in 1945.
6. Silly Putty
One of the resources needed during World War II was rubber. Rubber was used in gas masks, boots, tires and rafts. Unfortunately, the U.S. military was soon running short on it and needed a cheap substitute. While James Wright was performing research on synthetic rubber, he combined silicone oil with Boric acid. The goo he obtained could not replace the much needed rubber, but it had other properties: it did not melt easily, it could bounce and it could stretch quite far. After the war ended, it was promoted as a means of entertainment for children, but also for fixing items in households.
7. Canned Food
Last but not least, one of the most useful inventions created by war appeared in the 18th century. Napoleon Bonaparte staged a contest for finding a way to preserve food for as much time as possible. This was particularly necessary for his military campaigns. The prize was quite attractive too: 12,000 francs. Nicolas Appert was the lucky winner after he presented his idea of airtight food preservation: the method involved heating food in bottles placed in boiling water and glass jars that were sealed. As the years went by, the process improved and today we can preserve our food in tin cans.