What If You Had A Killer Idea … And You Forgot It?

Imagine Archimedes Bath Never Spilled Over ... Or I Hadn't Cut My Finger

What if Alexander Fleming’s cat knocked over that petri dish, and he never discovered penicillin?

No, I don’t know if he had a cat!

But you would wonder how many mind-bending scientific breakthroughs or classic story or song ideas were lost due to some minor calamity?

Like, imagine you’re Little Richard, and you’re driving along US 41 in south Macon, Georgia, tapping on the steering wheel, and the drum pattern A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom is just about to pop into your fingers when your cherry pink 1955 Chevvy blows a tire, and by the time you pull in off the highway, and calm down, it’s gone.

So, no Tutti Frutti, no rock and roll even — not yet anyway — and the world hears little more from Richard Wayne Penman. Pompadour wig technician during the week, and a popular enough warm-up act at the weekends for the real stars.

And every so often you’d find him slumped across his whiskey sour in some Macon dive bar, tapping on the table top and muttering something to himself like…’ A top, bam doddle … Jeez, what WAS that damn drum roll?’

Like Dougal and Father Ted chain-smoking all night to come up with a killer Eurovision hook …

Oh rooti! 

Or you’re Archimedes and your bath starts to spill over and you would have discovered the principle of buoyancy, only you get this great idea for a garlic sauce to beat all garlic sauces — you can see it now, Archimedes’ Own brand available in all Syracuse’s top marketplaces.

By the time you notice the overflowing bath, you have just added the killer ingredient, your own grapeseed oil, as the slave comes splashing across the floor to turn off master’s bath, muttering something a bit more tutti frutti than Eureka as he does so.

A sliding floors moment — and the sauce turns out to be a dud too.

I thought about all this after a recent altercation with a new serrated steel bread knife, just as I was cutting up a sausage sandwich and came up with what I thought was a great idea for a feature article.

And if I did, my distracted knife edge caught on the crust, and jumped across on to my index finger, like an errant chainsaw.

Good golly Miss Molly, all creative activity shut down as I tried to contain the pools of blood cupping in my palm, and spilling through my fingers into the sink like a ruby-red waterfall.

It was half an hour before I could even think of using my keyboard, even with the double bandage.

Now Stephen King would probably come up with an even more deadly plot idea by the time the microwave pinged on his porridge, but what about the poor sods who had one Big Idea in their lives, and they never got to express it? 

But just as many fantastic discoveries or inventions might have been derailed by a misfortune, many too were happy accidents.

Like Belgian scientist Leo Baekeland, who came up with plastic, mixing formaldehyde and phenol for something else entirely, but at least had the savvy to reckon this Bakelite, as he called it, could be pretty useful.

Or engineer Percy Spencer, who was working to develop energy sources for radar equipment during the second World War, and failed with his latest effort effort, only he noticed the microwaves he generated had melted the bar of chocolate in his pocket.

He tested his accidental invention by popping some corn kernels. And before he knew it, Percy had developed the first microwave oven.

And what if Will Keith Kellogg had left some broccoli on the boil rather than wheat, and thus Corn Flakes were never invented … or Rice Krispies, Bran Flakes and the rest?

Literature is full of treasured bestsellers that were one-offs.

Like the American Civil War-era saga, Gone with the Wind, was the one novel written by Margaret Mitchell published during her lifetime.

“Frankly, my dear,” began her publisher when she showed them some other work.

And another all-time classic …

Harper Lee wrote and submitted Go Set A Watchman first, the adult Scout’s account of her return from New York to the fictional Deep South town of Maycomb at the beginning of the civil-rights movement. 

The publishing house J. B. Lippincott bought the original in 1957, and asked her to rewrite the book as a coming-of-age story … and thus To Kill A Mockingbird was written.

Boasting sales of over 50 million copies, Anna Sewell’s one and only novel, Black Beauty, was written in the last years of her life and published — to great fanfare — just five short months before the writer’s death in 1878.

Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel. If she hadn’t have written it, we might not have had Kate Bush either!

So what was that game-changer of an idea I had?

I still don’t know, but it sounded something like ’A wip wap a doodle a lop bap a doodle, Dopey mopey … ’

Only joking, but I did get this article out of it all.

I made the cut, after all.

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