Handy Looks at Mysterious Inventions That Disappeared



We can find mysterious inventions throughout human history. Some were wiped off due to diseases, some due to war, and some due to politics or the battle between science and religion or just because they weren’t good enough. According to Handy, the human race could have achieved a more advanced civilization if some of the world-changing inventions weren’t lost to the past. Here are a few of them:

The Inventions

  1. Olestra – Technically, this isn’t a lost invention, but one that has been pulled back from the face of the earth due to public backlash. Olestra was supposed to be a substitute for fat. It had no calories or cholesterol which is responsible for so many heart diseases. If present in food with high-fat content, obesity wouldn’t be such a huge problem today. So, why did it receive backlash?

The reason for backlash was mostly due to its side effects. The compound was approved by the FDA back in 1996. However, side effects included loose stool and abdominal cramping at best and inhibition of absorption of essential nutrients and vitamins at worst. Even though these side effects occurred after excessive consumption of Olestra products the calorie trade-off wasn’t worth it to the public. 

  1. Silphium – Silphium has the classic story of being lost. It was a human discovery and invention of nature. However, its miraculous effects as a medicine and potent contraceptive in ancient times lead to humans overharvesting the plant. In fact, the plant was such a key figure in the Cyrerian economy that the minted coins had its picture. 

There is a lot of debate regarding the validity or existence of the plant. However, references show that the last plant was consumed by Emperor Nero after he got it as a gift. Moreover, even though civilizations during that time were supposed to be in a population boom, evidence suggests that they were actually declining.

  1. Water fuel cell – Stanley Meyer’s invention could divide crowds like no other. One side debated that it was one of the biggest fraudulent schemes of its time while others vigorously defend the innovation and pure genius behind the product. As the name suggests, the water fuel cell was supposed to be a machine that allowed automobiles to run on water instead of gasoline and worked with the principles of perpetual motion. 

The fuel cell split water into its elementary components, oxygen and hydrogen, the latter of which was burned to produce emission-free energy. However, investors sued Meyer for egregious fraud in 1996 and the court ruled in favor of the investors. It is mysterious that the inventor died just two years later in March of 1998 and the incident has given birth to several conspiracy theories about an assassination.


Handy believes that we should learn from these past inventions and protect the truly worthy ones before they are claimed by antiquity. The water fuel cell, if effective, could have resulted in a much greener and cleaner planet while more research into Olestra to get rid of its side effects may have resulted in a healthier population.

Louis Jones

Greg Jones: Greg's blog posts are known for their clear and concise coverage of economic and financial news. With a background as a financial journalist, he offers readers valuable insights into the complexities of the global economy.