The 20 most fascinating accidental inventions

10. Corn Flakes

Jacob Turcotte

Corn Flakes were created (by accident, of course) during a search for good, wholesome vegetarian food. William Kellogg and his brother, John Kellogg, are the masterminds behind one of the world’s most popular cold cereals.

In 1894, John was the chief medical officer of Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, which was run based on Seventh-day Adventist health principles of a vegetarian diet. Will worked at the sanitarium as a bookkeeper and manager, but under the guidance of his brother, he became very interested in health and nutrition. He eventually helped John search for new, wholesome diets for patients. The two brothers were in search of an easily digestible bread substitute, which led them to boiling wheat to make dough.

But it never turned into dough. They let the wheat boil for far too long. When Will rolled out the wheat, it separated into large, flat flakes. After baking and tasting, the brothers decided it was a delicious, healthy snack worthy of their patients. “Granose” flakes received rave reviews and patients pleaded for more after they left the sanitarium.

While John started the shipment process, Will had an idea: Try the process with corn instead of wheat. It was a touch-down play. In 1906 alone, the Kelloggs’ company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company, shipped 175,000 cases of Corn Flakes, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The brothers experimented with more ingredients, creating Bran Flakes and Rice Krispies. After Will decided to add sugar to some recipes, John left the company, believing that it went against their initial goals. Will renamed the company W.K. Kellogg Company in 1922. 

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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