You can thank Napoleon III (not that one; this was his nephew) for this invention. Margarine was invented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, when Napoleon wanted a butter substitute to feed to his soldiers and the poor in his empire due to the fact that butter was expensive. He offered a prize to the person who could come up with a butter substitute for his army.
Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could do this. Nicolas Appert won the prize with his process and laid down the foundation for modern tinned foodstuff. His process involved heating food in sealed glass jars and bottles placed in boiling water. This process was then built upon by numerous inventors, eventually giving way to the tin can and your can of peas.
Silly Putty is yet another accidental byproduct of war. It was during World War II that silly putty came into existence. In 1943, scientist James Wright was researching synthetic rubber when he combined Boric acid with silicone oil. The result was literally a glob of goo. It wasn’t until after the war that Silly Putty proved to be a huge hit with children around the world, and even adults found uses for the substance, using it to fix things around the house.
In 1943, engineer Richard James was working on a system that would be used to stabilize and support sensitive equipment on board ships in rough seas during war. James and his wife saw the potential of the Slinky as a children’s toy, and began to market it that way.
The Jerry Can
The jerry can was a German invention developed in the 1930s for military use at the start of World War II. The Germans called it Wehrmachtskanister. They saw the importance of being able to carry fuel and water and by the time WWII came about, they had stockpiled thousands of these in anticipation for the conflict.
Percy Spencer, who was researching radar technology. Spencer was working on magnetrons one day when he noticed that a chocolate bar that he had in his pocket had begun to melt. Spencer, who worked for the company Raytheon at the time, realized the potential of this discovery.
Raytheon produced the first microwave in 1947. It was large, expensive, and not very popular until sometime later, when microwaves became smaller and more affordable.
The idea of radar was around before World War II but it was in that war that the first practical radar system was developed by Robert Wattson-Watt. Wattson-Watt developed the technology when a series of radar related discoveries allowed him to do so. Wattson-Watt built on these discoveries and realized that he could use radio transmitters to create an echo off of an airplane by bouncing radio waves off of it.
Super glues (otherwise known as cyanoacrylates) were discovered in 1942. Harry Coover was actually attempting to create a clear plastic gun sight to be used on rifles by the Allies.
Coover and his colleague, Fred Joyner, realized the commercial potential of this formula due to the fact it stuck to just about everything.
Duct tape came about during the Second World War, after the U.S. military needed a way to safely seal ammunition cases while also keeping the moisture out. It was created by a division of the Johnson and Johnson Company, which used medical tape as a base and applied a couple of new technologies to create a tape that was durable and waterproof.