The microwave has become an invaluable part of the lives of so many people. It is a versatile tool used by many and beloved by all. Before it rose to become a pinnacle of convenience for most modern-day meal preparations, did you know that the microwave was invented solely by accident?
In 1946, in his place of employ at Raytheon Manufacturing Company, the accidental creation of the microwave stemmed from Percy Spencer’s desire to eat lunch while also hard at work developing a magnetron for his radar sets. According to Popular Mechanics, he discovered that the same vibrating electromagnetic forces that the magnetron emits could also be used to process food items.
His lunch, a chocolate bar (or a peanut butter cluster bar claims other retellings), had melted in his pocket, resulting in a “gooey, sticky mess.”
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Understandably curious of what he had unlocked, it didn’t take long for Spencer to try the accidental invention on other food items. The report goes on to say that Spencer, on the following day, brought an egg to the lab and put it underneath the magnetron tubes. The egg then exploded in Spencer’s face.
From there, he only continued, bringing in corn kernels. The same way it popped in our microwave today, the popped corn became an instant hit with Spencer’s co-workers at Raytheon and all his subsequent works there were remembered for the simplicity of them.
We may know microwaves right now as one of the many useful household appliances we have in our home, but other than microwaves, Raytheon engineer and part-time company historian Chet Michalays praised Spencer as being a man who “had a knack for finding simple solutions to manufacturing problems.
Spencer began work at Raytheon in 1925 and proceeded to make everything for them including a detonator that could be activated even if it was in mid-air. The company also noticed his abundant talent in improving things and offering smart, simple solutions to company problems, as the Popular Mechanics explains that Spencer lived most of his life at Raytheon being its “go-to” problem solver.
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Although, just because something seemed safe didn’t mean it was. According to the grandson of the later Spencer, he said that Percy didn’t know at the time about what radiation does to the body in particular. They had very little to worry about, though, for it was also around the time that people were also equally ignorant about the effects of mercury on the human body.
Even so, Spencer’s creation was a critical turning point to a future of convenience.
Twenty years later, Spencer’s discovery finally made its way into the market, although there wasn’t much luck on who would buy it. The reason to that was that it was very heavy -- weighing 750 pounds and costing anyone to $2,000. Only in 1967 did the product really took off.
In 1975, the sales of microwaves grew solid for each persisting year, eventually making its way to the top of the food convenience chart.