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Pemberton's Marvellous Medicine

Home schooling has not been fun in our house. But this week I was able to teach my son something that I don’t think he’ll ever forget, and I the reason I am so certain he’ll not forget it, is because this lessons involved Coca-Cola.

It’s the drink of dreams for any child and my go to ‘medicine’ when I’m hung-over.

My son is 8, and like many boys his age, he’s not that interested in writing. He prefers making fires with his flint and steel, building patios for the hedgehogs and getting me to list my top 5 meals. So when we sit down to do some work, he’s not overly impressed and neither am I. He has little patience and starts to cry when he’s made a mistake and messes up his writing. In my head I’m thinking words that I can’t really publish and will definitely make me look like a bad parent. So out loud, I tell him that making mistakes is the best way of learning. Its hard to hear that when you’ve just made a mistake so I told him this…

Coco-Cola was made by accident. I know, its hard to believe. Its so perfect, and my kid and his cousins go wild for the stuff. And then continue to go wild because of the obscene amount of gorgeous sugar is in it. I probably should have taught him a more educational and worthy story like how antibiotics were made, but lets face it, kids love Coca-Cola so I had him hooked.

A pharmacist named John Sith Pemberton was injured during the American Civil War and became addicted to his opiate pain medication. He knew he needed to find an opiate free way of controlling his pain and so began his marvellous medicine. He created a syrup with Coca leaves and an extract of Kola nut. The cocaine from the Coca leaves made people feel better and the caffeine from the Kola nut was the extra stimulant. (In the early 1900s the company gave in to public pressure to remove the cocaine element which was a fairly sensible decision.)

Pemberton described his medicine as “a valuable brain tonic that would cure headaches, relieve exhaustion and calm nerves” which makes total sense to me as its my hangover drink of choice. It does help my headache, it does give me some energy, albeit short lived, and its does calm my PPP (post pissed paranoia). The man is a genius!

He even designed the logo that is still used today. Sadly for John, he got stomach cancer and due to nearly becoming bankrupt, he sold his business very cheaply to another pharmacist who added things to make it nicer (mostly sugar) plus a top secret ingredient and changed the product from a medicine to the drink we all know today. The Second World War took the drink worldwide. American soldiers fighting overseas were all promised a drink of Coca-Cola from the iconic bottle (the shape of which was based on the female curves).

Love it or loath it, Coca-Cola has a really interesting history and the drink we enjoy today was made by accident!

So my kid and I forgot about the mistake he’d made, poured ourselves a can of Coke and googled some more things that were made by mistake. Here they are in case you’re interested….

Penicillin – a very famous mistake. I haven’t cleaned out my fridge in ages because I’m hoping to be the next Alexander Fleming.

Crisps – a customer was unsatisfied with his fried potatoes and kept sending them back to the kitchen, he did this a few times and in frustration the chef sliced the potatoes as finely as possible, fried them and sent them back into the restaurant. It turned out, the customer was delighted with the result and so crisps were born.

Microwave ovens – a scientist was working on some radar related research and was using popping corn. The popcorn popped and he was thrilled (probably because he had made popcorn)

X-ray - German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen was doing sciencey things when he discovered X-ray. Because Wilhelm didn’t know what the rays were, he referred to them as “X’.

Do you know of any famous things that were made by mistake? Or have you created your own invention from making an error. We’re now addicted to finding out brilliant inventions that arrived by accident, so we'd love to hear yours!

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