Serendipitous discoveries tend to happen in unexpected ways. But the stories of the serendipitous discoveries of three different artificial sweeteners are, in their basic components, identical. All three were discovered when a scientist put his hand to his mouth and tasted something unusually sweet.
Saccharin, 1897, Johns Hopkins University
One night, Constantine Fahlberg came home from the lab, picked up a piece of bread, and took a bite. It was sweet—much sweeter than sugar—and he realized he was eating bread dusted with some chemical he'd made that day at work.
"The only way to find out what was sweet on his lab bench was to literally taste everything," Michal Meyer, the editor-in-chief of Chemical Heritage, explains in this video. So he did, and he found that a compound called benzoic sulfimide was responsible. He called it saccharine; and to find out if it was safe, Meyer says, he "took 10 grams...swallowed it, waited for 24 hours to see what would happen and found it went right through him. It was basically unmetabolized by his body."
He decided it was safe. Since then, it's been used in all kinds of drinks, particularly during World War II when sugar supplies were low. Today, you can enjoy saccharin in the little paper packets of Sweet n’ Low.