By C.A. Sarsfield

Percy LeBaron Spencer was an extraordinary man, some might say a genius. In 1946 he was working in the laboratory at the Raytheon Corporation, when he suddenly felt a faint tingling at the top of his left leg.

Reaching into his pocket, he found a sticky, gooey mess, not fully understanding what the mess was, he pulled as much of it out as he could. There he found a wrapper of a candy bar, remembering he had put the candy bar into his pocket earlier that morning. But what had made it melt?

Percy could not understand why the candy bar had melted. He had be working on magnetrons, and was standing in front of an active radar set when the candy bar had melted. Could these have melted it? Soon he realised that this required a fuller investigation.

He decided to experiment using food. His first experiment was using eggs, he placed one in a tea kettle and the magnetron was placed directly above it. The result was the egg exploding. In his second experiment he used popcorn kernels and these started popping when he placed them near the magnetron.

He then set about building a rudimentary metal box with a magnetron in it. He used this box to reheat his lunches each day in the laboratory. Percy had, in fact, invented the world’s first microwave oven.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own