10 of the Noteworthy Firsts Throughout History

by Shivam Khandelwal3 years ago

6 In 1879, the first artificial sweetener, Saccharin, was discovered by accident when a Russian chemist, Constantine Fahlberg, forgot to wash his hands after work and tasted something “unspeakably sweet” during his supper. He immediately rushed to his laboratory and tasted each beaker. Luckily, none of them were poisonous, and one of them contained an impure solution of Saccharin.
Constantine Fahlberg
Bronze relief of the cenotaph for Constantin Fahlberg upon the South-Cemetery of the City of Magdeburg, Germany. Image credit: Klewic via Wikimedia

Fahlberg’s opinion was that he discovered or invented the coal-tar sugar partly by accident and partly by study.

On just another usual evening of 27 February 1878, Fahlberg was immersed in his work in his lab that he forgot about the supper until late at night. He rushed to his dinner without washing his hands. When the first bite of bread touched his lips, it tasted unspeakably sweet.

It wasn’t unusual for him at first. He rinsed his mouth with water and cleaned it with a napkin, and to his surprise, the napkin tasted even sweeter.

Still completely confused, Fahlberg tasted his thumb, and the taste even out-sugared sugar. Making sense of the situation, he dropped his dinner plans and headed straight to his laboratory and tasted every beaker and evaporating dish lying on the table.

Luckily there was nothing corrosive or poisonous, and one of them had Saccharin.

After that, he worked for weeks and months to determine the chemical structure, characteristics and reactions, and procedures for commercializing it.

After publishing the research, it was laughed at as a scientific joke, but Fahlberg slowly gained popularity. He later even established a factory, and that’s how the first artificial sugar was introduced to humans. (source)


7 The first publicly sold bottle of Coca-Cola in 1894 contained around 3.5 grams of cocaine. In those days, cocaine was legal, was used in common medicines, and so people considered that it was safe to use in small amounts.

Coca Cola
Image credit: M. Unal Ozmen via Shutterstock

Coca-Cola, the drink, was first invented in 1885 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist by profession from Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton made the original recipe in his backyard which contained cocaine in the form of extracted coca leaves. This ingredient in the recipe also explains the “Coca” part of the drink’s name. The other half of the name “Cola” is picked from the kola nut which contains caffeine.

Pemberton advertised the product as “patent medicine” and described it as a “brain tonic and intellectual beverage.” Moreover, he asserted that the drink cured headaches, upset stomachs, and fatigue.

Patent medicines in those times were made by combining “exotic” ingredients and drug compounds, and their manufacturers claimed that they cured a variety of ailments. In reality, these products often contained ingredients that we now know are addictive, including cocaine and opium.

The quantity of cocaine in Coca-Cola was reduced over time, and it was finally removed completely from the drink in 1929. The elimination of the drug happened during the Prohibition period in the US when alcohol was made illegal. Coca-Cola then came to be known as a “soft” drink; an alternative to hard alcohol. (source)


8 The world’s first known author was a woman named “Enheduanna.” She composed hymns, prayers, psalms, and poetry more than 4,000 years ago and was a high priestess in ancient Mesopotamia.

Seal of Innana
Image credit: Sailko via Wikimedia

Enheduanna lived in the 23rd century BCE. She was a princess, priestess, writer, and poet at the same time.

In her work, she wrote two hymns dedicated to the Mesopotamian Love Goddess, Inanna, wrote the mythology of Inanna and Ebih, and additional 42 temple hymns.

Besides mythological literature, she also wrote about her own personal life in the form of autobiographies and the problems of pursuing creative endeavors in such times.

Even if the ancient world, the one full of scribal tradition, is considered to be ruled by men, Enheduanna stands out to be an exception which makes her work an important part of Mesopotamian rich literary history. Despite her significant contribution, she’s almost unknown in the modern-day and her feats have been overlooked.

Enheduanna’s writings were mostly found on cuneiforms. Cuneiforms are an ancient form of writing made by using clay tablets.

Enheduanna, in herself, can be now seen as a symbol or a figure of immense creativity which is exceptionally rich. And, it is 4,000 years old, the time when the words were first carved into clay tablets. (source)


9 The first-ever decree on human rights was first ever issued by the Persian King Cyrus the Great back in 539 BCE. The king freed slaves, publicly declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion, and also established racial equality.

King Cyrus
Emperor King Cyrus (Image to the left). Image credit: Shutterstock

Cyrus the Great was the first king of ancient Persia who conquered Babylon. During his reign, he took remarkable political decisions that can be considered as the first-ever human rights. He introduced and executed laws that were based on the ideas of freedom, equality, and secularism.

Decrees were recorded on a baked-clay cylinder in the Akkadian language with a cuneiform script.

Because of this step taken by the Persian king, he is also known by the name “Cyrus Cylinder.” His decree carved on the clay surface has now been recognized as the world’s first charter of human rights.

This important piece of legislation was also translated into six official languages of the United Nations.

After Babylon, the idea of human rights then quickly spread to India, Greece, and Rome. (source)


10 In 1799, the son of a farmer in North Carolina found a large yellow rock in a creek on the family’s farm. The family couldn’t make sense of the substance, so they used it as a bulky doorstep for three years. The heavy rock turned out to be a 17-pound gold nugget, and it was the first documented commercial gold found in the US.

Gold Mine
Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credit: Shutterstock

The 12-year-old boy was Conrad Reed. Conrad saw the gold nugget protruding from the water on a regular Sunday in 1799. The yellowish rock seemed strange and interesting, so he simply carried it home.

Conrad and his entire family couldn’t figure out what the football-sized, unusual yellow rock was, so they just used it as a doorstop for three years.

John Reed, Conrad’s father, took the rock to Fayetteville on a business trip and presented it before a jeweler who identified it as gold.

The jeweler asked Reed to name the price for the six-inch nugget and unaware, Reed sold it out for just $3.50. For Reed, it was a fair trade since the amount was his entire week’s wage.

The valuable gold bar was actually worth at that time $3,600. Reed realized later that he was tricked by the jeweler and he also asked the jeweler for the real value later. It is uncertain whether or not he got the deserved cash, but the incident got Reed to start his new business which was gold mining.

Mining as an industry grew rapidly in Carolina. Six hundred gold mines were being worked just in North Carolina alone during the peak of the rush. (source)

Also Read:
10 Historical Events That Sound Like Fiction but Are Actually Real

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