One of the side effects of working on these magnetrons: a pocket of melted chocolate. One day, in 1945, Spencer noticed that the peanut bar in his pocket was hot and, in fact, the chocolate had melted. This apparently was not the first time a Raytheon scientist noticed something similar, but Spencer’s curiosity was piqued. Had the magnetron caused this? He sent an assistant out for some popcorn — a test, of sorts. Holding the popcorn near the magnetron created a violent reaction — an explosion of popcorn flew all over his lab. The next day, he tested with a raw egg, poking a hole in the shell, and discovered that the magnetron was, in fact, cooking the food.
By 1947, his discovery, patented, was available for sale — as the microwave oven.
From the Archives: Baby Carrots aren’t babies.
Related: Accidental Inventions That Changed our Lives by Birgit Krols.
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