Fans of Hot Pockets and microwave popcorn alike can give greasy thanks to Percy Spencer for the invention of the microwave. This appliance, which revolutionized the time it took to heat and cook food, was discovered while Spencer was working at the Raytheon Corporation conducting research on radar signals.
It was during this engineer’s work with magnetrons — electron tubes used to generate radar signals and in this case, microwave radiations — that he discovered the use of microwave cooking.
As his great grandson Rod Spencer tells Business Insider, one fateful day in 1946 Spencer was working near the magnetrons when he noticed a peanut cluster bar in his pocket had melted.
Instead of being put off by the sticky mess, “He put two and two together and he decided to get some popcorn, so he sent the popcorn in and it started popping all over the place,” Rod said. “The next morning, he brought in an egg. One of the engineers who was a little disbelieving in terms of a microwave’s ability to cook, just as he was looking over, the egg blew up in his face.”
That egg blowing up lead to Spencer and Raytheon patenting the “RadaRange,” the first commercial microwave oven, which weighed 750 pounds (not exactly fit for the college dorm), standing at almost 6 feet tall and cost $5,000 (equivalent to $52,628 in today’s dollars).
It took over a decade before the more affordable and smaller countertop version came into play. As a result, our eating habits and the food market had never been the same since. According to 2013 information from the U.S. Census Bureau, 93 percent of the U.S. population owns a microwave.