Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite


A look behind the scenes at the goofs, coincidences and twists that have resulted in amazing new discoveries, from laughing gas to dynamite.


Short listed, Norma Fleck Award for Non-Fiction, 1999
Selected, CBC Radio Recommended Reading List
Recommended, Best Books, Canadian Children's Book Centre, 2017


“A quirky, entertaining resource.”
                                                                                                        Kitchener Waterloo Record

“Readers will be fascinated.”
                                                                                                        A Guide to Canadian Books

“Celebrating the curiosity, creativity and persistence (and even the quirkiness) of the many inventors/discoverers featured, and, perhaps, inspiring budding scientists to follow their passion, Accidental Discoveries From Laughing Gas to Dynamite is a fun, amusing and enjoyable read."
                                                                                                       CM Magazine

"Fascinating stories abound...appealing format...well-written..."
                                                                                                       Resource Links Magazine

“A well-written and often amusing exploration of the origins of a wide variety of inventions.”
                                                                                                       Canadian Children’s Book Centre



In 1903 French scientist Edouard Benedictus was approaching the end of his experiment. He stirred some liquid celluloid in a glass flask. The experiment looked successful, and Benedictus was pleased.

Suddenly his hand slipped, knocking the flask to the floor. Disappointed, he stooped down to clean up the shattered glass.

What was this? Instead of shards of glass, the flask remained intact! Somehow, the fragments had been held together.

Benedictus was fascinated by the strange behaviour of the glass. He sensed something unusual - an unknown property of celluloid, perhaps. He abandoned his original experiment and set off on this new trail.

But Benedictus didn't recognize the usefulness of his discovery until another chance event. Weeks after he dropped the flask, he read a newspaper story about a young girl who had been badly cut by flying glass in an automobile accident. Only then did he suddenly realize that his experience with the non-shattering flask might lead to something practical.

Eventually, Edouard Benedictus developed safety glass, a type of glass that cracks but does not shatter. It safely stays together even when you smash it with a hammer. Today we use safety glass in many places - car windshields, windows, doors of public buildings, even in goggles for machinists.


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