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10 Things that Were Originally Invented for a Different Purpose

6. Botox was invented to treat muscle spasms. It was only in 1987 that Dr. Alluster Carruthers and his wife Jean discovered the cosmetic use of botox.

Botox
(Image 1) Botox treatment. (Image 2) Jean and Alistair Carruthers. Image credits: Oceanview MedSpa/Flickr, Jean and Alistair Carruthers/BusinessInsider

Botulinum toxin, or “Botox,” is a neurotoxin that is responsible for the disease called botulism. The toxin is naturally produced by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. It can partially paralyze facial muscles that cause wrinkles and frown lines.

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In 1980, Alan Scott started producing botulinum toxin in his lab in California to treat patients suffering from strabismus. After the supply of the drug was partially halted during 1986, the patients began to travel to Canada for their eye injections. It was in 1987 that Vancouver-based Dr. Alluster Carruthers along with his wife Jean discovered the cosmetic use of botox when a patient asked them to inject her forehead with botox as it makes her wrinkles go away. (source)

7. Treadmills were originated in the 1st century AD. by the ancient Romans to manipulate and lift heavy objects. During the 19th century, they were used as a punishment for prisoners and also for purposes of grinding grain and pumping water in the prisons.

Treadmill
(Image 1) Human-powered treadmill for grinding grain. (Image 2) Treadmill used to punish prisoners at Breakwater Prison. Image credits: Wikipedia, Lennon001/Wikipedia

Treadmills were always used as power sources. One of the first uses of treadmills was by the ancient Romans. They designed a tread-wheel which was a wheel connected to a crane. As a person would walk inside the wheel, the attached crane would subsequently lift heavy objects.

A popular version of the treadmills was used also in the prisons. The first design for the prison treadmill was created by an English engineer named Sir William Cubitt in 1817 after witnessing the idleness of the prisoners. The design was similar to the tread-wheel, except there were steps fitted on the outside of the wheel. He also altered his designs so that the treadmill could be used for pumping water and grinding grains.

The modern treadmill as we know today is based on the design developed and patented by Claude Lauraine Hagen which included a treadmill belt in 1913. Until the invention of the modern version, treadmills were used manually. The motorized version of the treadmill was invented by Dr. Robert Bruce and Wayne Quinton at the University of Washington in 1952 to diagnose cardiovascular disorders.  Finally, in 1960, William Staub designed the first commercial treadmill for home use. (source)

8. Braille was invented as “night writing” for soldiers by the French. It was later modified in the year 1824 to be used by the visually impaired.

Napoleon wanted to create a system which would allow French soldiers to communicate with each other during the dark hours of the night without making any sound. Charles Barbier, a captain in the French Army, invented a military code known as “night writing.” The system consisted of 12, carved dots which encoded 36 different sounds. The system turned out to be confusing and difficult to comprehend and was eventually rejected by the military.

Charles Barbier introduced “night writing” to Louis Braille when he visited the Royal Institute for the Blind in 1821. Braille identified two flaws in the system. First, that the dots represented only sounds and not the spelling of the words, and second, a human finger could not encompass the whole 12 dots without moving. He suggested that they reduce the dots to six and assign patterns to the letters of the alphabets. His ideas were taken into consideration, and various modifications were made which finally resulted in an independent writing system for blind people. (source)

9. Play-doh was invented by Noah McVicker to clean coal residue off wallpaper. The clay-like substance he developed was later re-purposed as a children’s toy in 1956.

Play Doh
Image credits: Amazon, Nevit Dilmen/Wikipedia

Play-doh was actually marketed and used as wallpaper cleaner for about 20 years. At the request of Kroger Grocery which wanted a product that could clean coal residue off wallpapers, Noah McVicker developed putty-like. non-toxic substance. Soon after WW II, people shifted from coal-based heating systems to more advanced systems based on natural gas. This, along with the invention of vinyl-based wallpapers that could be washed, crashed the market for the wall cleaner. The sales started plummeting, and the company was looking for a new use of their clay-like substance.

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Joe McVicker, the nephew of Noah McVicker, came across a brilliant idea to use the substance as a plaything when he heard about nursery students enjoying making art with the wallpaper-cleaning putty. Eventually, they adopted the idea and starting selling the putty as a children’s toy in 1956. (source)

10. Mountain dew originated in the 1940s as alcohol mixer, preferably for whiskey. The term “mountain dew” was also Southern U.S. and Irish/Scottish slang for “moonshine.”

Mountain Dew
(Image 1) 1950s Mountain Dew advertisement. Image credits: Bellczar/Wikipedia, Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Two Tennessee bottlers, Barney and Alley Hartman, were having difficulty finding the perfect soda to mix with whiskey, so they came up with their own mixer and called it “Mountain Dew.” The Hartman brothers introduced the soda to Charles Gordon, founder of Tri-City Beverage, who made a deal with them to bottle Mountain Dew.

The name “Mountain Dew” was trademarked for the soft drink in 1948. The taste and formula of the drink was revised a couple of times since. Finally, in the year 1964, Pepsico acquired the brand and production rights and expanded its distribution. (source)

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