As accidental erections have led to one of the greatest advances of modern medicine


In the omnipotent pursuit of a cure for impotence, it seemed that everything had been tried, from tiger's penis soup to testicular monkey implants to the meal of a goat's testicles.

Man's inability to achieve and maintain a sexual erection has been said to man's modern curse.

And in some cases, women were guilty.

In fact, the first reference to impotence was found in the 8th century BC in India, and ancient Hindus believed that impotence could be caused by having sex with an "unpleasant woman."

The very word impotence is derived from the Latin word "impotence", which translates to "lack of power".

Suggested remedies included eating the goat's testicles. Men were advised to add salt, pepper powder and clarified butter to enhance flavor. Or there was the option of boiling the testicles in a pot of milk.

By the mid-seventeenth century French comments by Nicholas Vennette mirrored the view of virtually everyone when it came to impotence when he said, "If a woman's hand, which is the best of all solutions, is not good enough to heal sagging a man's penis, the other remedies will do little. "

But researchers have finally discovered the cure for impotence by simple accident with the creation of Viagra, which has changed the lives of countless love lives 23 years ago this month.

How did a medication originally intended to treat heart problems end up saving the relationships of millions of satisfied people?

Viagra was one of the many drugs that were discovered, as a miracle, by chance.


In the late 1980s, British scientists at Pfizer, Peter Dunn and Albert Wood, created the drug sildenafil citrate (also known as UK-92480) that they hoped would help treat hypertension and angina; the pain linked to coronary heart disease.

Pfizer had been unsuccessfully trying to develop the drug and there were rumors in the scientific world that things were not going well.

But scientists continued to work on the drug in the hope of a breakthrough.

They ended up having a breakthrough – but it was not what they expected.

When testing the drug in a group of miners, they found an interesting side effect – all men in the test group agreed they "had more erections at night than normal."

That's when scientists switched directions and began researching ways in which the drug could help cure impotence. The men received the drug and were taken to a laboratory where they were asked to watch pornographic films.

You can imagine the rest.

Simply put; the drug worked wonders.

How it works? It relaxes the muscles allowing more blood to flow into the penis.

According to researcher Ian Osterloh: "With the UK's 92480 chance of treating angina now getting thinner, we decided to conduct pilot studies in patients with erectile dysfunction."

In April 1996, Pfizer patented sildenafil citrate in the United States and, a year later, the drug, now called Viagra, was officially approved to treat erectile dysfunction.

It was said to be a drug that would "liberate male libido from emasculating feats of feminists" (according to Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse), Viagra was known as the world's hottest new drug.

And it's not the only drug that was discovered entirely by accident.


In the 1840s, lithium was used to treat gout and stones in the bladder. But 100 years later, psychiatrist John Cade noted that lithium-injected guinea pigs were sedated rather than excited.

This finding led to clinical studies that showed lithium was effective in preventing "mania" and was released to the public after it was approved by the FDA in 1970.

It is currently the most widely used drug in the treatment of bipolar disorder.


In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin while investigating the flu, which was one of the leading killers in those days. The Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 killed 10 times more people than the first world war.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Photo / 123RF
In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Photo / 123RF

When a tiny speck of dust contaminated one of the petri dishes containing staphylococcus, this resulted in a mildew stain. Fleming noticed that around the mold was a zone free of bacteria. This mold, eventually called penicillin, is one of the most significant medical discoveries of all time. Fleming later received a Nobel Prize and a knighthood title.

Contraceptive contraceptive

Scientists in the 1950s were determined to create a safe prophylactic (a medicine to prevent disease) and began testing synthetic progesterone in women.

When the scientists removed "impurities" from the drug, they realized that the study's results worsened and then discovered that the "impurity" was estrogen. This led to the discovery that a pill that combined the two hormones could prevent pregnancy.

In the early 1960s, the contraceptive pill was introduced to the public consisting of synthetic hormones that mimic the way estrogen and progesterone work.

The pill works by preventing ovulation; when a woman takes the pill, no new egg is released because the pill makes her body believe she is already pregnant.


In 1884, cocaine was used as a local anesthetic, but was found to cause dependence and death. Then the race began to find a safer substitute. The German chemist Alfred Einhorn ended up discovering local injectable anesthesia, which became Novocaine.

Nowadays it is used to anesthetize a local area, such as numbness in the mouth while a patient is undergoing a dental procedure


In the early 1940s, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman was working in his lab trying to create a new drug to treat postpartum haemorrhage.

He started to touch a small portion of LSD-25 with his fingers and soon his world began to change.

In his diary, he wrote: "I noticed an uninterrupted flow of fantastic images, extraordinary shapes with intense kaleidoscopic color play."

In April 1943, Hoffman experimented with only 0.25mg of the drug before returning home on his bicycle. Apparently, the world around him melted, he saw all sorts of wild things and that day is officially known as "bicycle day". Hoffman was the first person to travel with acid.


Tamoxifen was first made in 1966 by scientists who were working on finding a new emergency contraceptive. But the drug initially failed when it was discovered that it stimulated ovulation instead of suppressing it.

Instead, it has been found to treat estrogen-positive breast cancer, which makes up 50 to 70 percent of the cases. In some cases, tamoxifen has been credited for helping to prevent the development of breast cancer in high-risk patients.


When botulinum was first used in the early 80's, it was injected into the forehead to stop the contraction of the eyelid. But it did not take long for the cosmetics industry to jump on board.

In 1989, the powerful neurotoxin was used to paralyze forehead muscles and relieve expression lines.

In 1989, Botox was used to paralyze forehead muscles and relieve expression lines. Photo / 123RF
In 1989, Botox was used to paralyze forehead muscles and relieve expression lines. Photo / 123RF

Currently, the drug, commonly known as Botox, is also used to relieve symptoms of chronic migraine, symptoms of Parkinson's disease and also spasms in the bladder.


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