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Brilliant moments of invention that shaped the modern world EUREKA.

Byline: By Craig McQueen

WITH Scots famous around the world for inventions, you'd imagine we'd have more than our fair share of eureka moments.

But it seems that while many of us have the odd good idea, most go to waste because we don't know what to do with them.

Research from the Lottery-funded science body Nesta shows that 90 per cent of us claim to have had a sudden brainwave, but that we didn't know how to follow it up.

And while men claim they're most likely to dream up something in the pub, women are most likely to hit upon an idea while doing housework.

Thankfully, not everyone lets these moments of inspiration pass by.

Here's a look at 10 inventions, and what their creators were doing when the eureka moment arrived.

MODERN PACEMAKER

Although pacemakers were available in the Fifties, American academic Wilson Greatbatch stumbled upon a better one while trying to find a way to record heart sounds. When he placed the wrong size of resistor in a circuit, it created a brief pulse followed by a one-second silence, perfect for regulating a heartbeat.

POST-IT NOTE

Art Fry was working for 3M in the Seventies when he stumbled upon a mild glue created a few years earlier. It wasn't until he was singing in his church, wishing for a bookmark that would stay in place without damaging his hymn book, that he realised what it could be used for.

VELCRO

Swiss mountaineer George de Mestral returned home from walking his dog in 1948 to find they were both covered in tiny burrs from plants. Using a microscope, he saw they clung to his clothes thanks to tiny hooks, and he designed a two-sided fabric fastener based on the principle.

VACUUM CLEANER

In 1907, Ohio janitor James Murray Spangler realised his carpet sweeper was giving him a cough, so he stuck an old fan motor in a soap box, attached it to a broom handle and used a pillow case to collect the dust. He set about improving the design and went into business. One of his first customers was his cousin, whose husband was one William H. Hoover. The rest is history.

PENICILLIN

Although the existence of penicillin had been noted by a French medical student, Alexander Fleming rediscovered it in 1928. He noticed a plate of bacteria had been contaminated by mould, but the mould was destroying the bacteria. He discovered its properties and named it penicillin.

BAND-AIDS

Earl Dickson was working for Johnson and Johnson in 1921 when, because his wife was always cutting her fingers and gauze and tape fell off quickly, he put gauze in the centre of a piece of tape, using crinoline to keep it sterile. His boss was impressed and put it into production.

BLUE JEANS

German Levi Strauss was heading for the California goldrush in the 1850s when a prospector told him good trousers were hard to find. The 24-year-old started making overalls from tent canvas before changing to the fabric later known as denim. When a tailor suggested rivets to strengthen them, blue jeans were born.

TEFLON

In 1938, Roy Plunkett was carrying out research into fridge gases for DuPont when a gas cylinder failed to discharge despite being full. Plunkett cut it open to find the gas had solidified and he analysed the white powder. It failed to react with almost any other chemical and had an extremely high melting point. Within three years, it had been named Teflon.

MONOPOLY

Charles Darrow was an unemployed American salesman struggling to make ends meet after the 1929 stock market crash when he began reminiscing about his childhood in Atlantic City and drew a map of the streets on a tablecloth. He added houses, shops and hotels, and friends came round to play a game based on buying and selling the properties. He began selling copies of the game, and later sold the concept to Parker Brothers.

MICROWAVE OVEN

In 1946, Dr Percy Spencer, right, was doing radar research when he noticed low levels of microwaves had melted a chocolate bar in his pocket. Realising this could be used for cooking, he immediately filed a patent. The next year, the first microwave went on sale. Aimed at the catering market, it stood at more than 6ft tall and cost more than EUR5000.

CAPTION(S):

JEAN GENIUS: Levi Strauss; STICK AT IT: Post-It note inventor Art Fry; LIFE-SAVER: Alexander Fleming, top, and the first microwave
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 10, 2008
Words:745
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