Accidental Inventions — The Microwave

2 min readJul 17, 2018


Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places.

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Percy Spencer was born on 9th July 1894 in the US state of Maine.

He had a difficult childhood and was brought up by his improvrished uncle and aunt after his father died and his mother abandoned him.

Despite these setbacks, Percy was an innately curious child and after little in the way of formal schooling, he joined the US Navy aged 18.

There he learnt and gained expertise in a whole bunch of fields including chemistry, physics, mathematics and metallurgy.

He then went to work for the company Raytheon developing components for a then emerging technology known as radar.

His work proved to be instrumental in the company’s success and also his country’s contribution to the war effort.

Oh…and he also invented the microwave.


You see Percy had a sweet tooth and one day when he was walking through the research laboratory he passed in front of an active radar set.

Immediately, he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Eager to experiment further, Percy tried other types of food including unpopped kernels of corn.


After further research and experimentation, he applied for a parent in 1945.

The first commercial microwave was introduced two years later. It was about six feet in height, weighed over 300kgs and cost over $2000!

It was also said to not cook meat particularly well.

Undaunted, Spencer continued to refine his initial concept and the first microwave suitable for home use was placed on sale in 1967.

So next time you’re hungry and in need of a quick snack spare a thought for Percy and his wondrous accidental invention.




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