Artificial sweeteners
The discovery and subsequent marketing of saccharin as an artificial sugar substitute might never have happened if there had been an "Employees Must Wash Hands" sign nearby.

In 1879, a chemist by the name of Constantin Fahlberg was working with coal tar. He finished his day's work and apparently headed home for dinner without stopping to wash up.

While dining with his wife, the muck-handed scientist noticed that everything he ate had a distinctly sweet taste. Connecting the dots, he realized his hand residue was the source.

Saccharine's cousin, aspartame, has a similar accidental history. It was discovered in 1965 by chemist James M. Schlatter, who was trying to fashion an anti-ulcer medication. It was later developed and branded as NutraSweet by Monsanto ( MON) before being sold for $440 million to J.W. Childs Equity Partners, a Boston-based private investment firm, in 2000.

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