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Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science



Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science

Royston M. Roberts

ISBN: 978-0-471-60203-3 July 1989 288 Pages


Many of the things discovered by accident are important in our everyday lives: Teflon, Velcro, nylon, x-rays, penicillin, safety glass, sugar substitutes, and polyethylene and other plastics. And we owe a debt to accident for some of our deepest scientific knowledge, including Newton's theory of gravitation, the Big Bang theory of Creation, and the discovery of DNA. Even the Rosetta Stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the ruins of Pompeii came to light through chance. This book tells the fascinating stories of these and other discoveries and reveals how the inquisitive human mind turns accident into discovery. Written for the layman, yet scientifically accurate, this illuminating collection of anecdotes portrays invention and discovery as quintessentially human acts, due in part to curiosity, perserverance, and luck.
Partial table of contents:

Archimedes--The First Streaker.

A Sick Indian Discovers Quinine.

The Electric Battery and Electromagnetism--From a Frog's Leg andCompass.

Discoveries of the Elements.

Daguerre and the Invention of Photography.

Nobel--the Man, the Discoveries, and the Prizes.

Friedel and Crafts--A Laboratory Accident Spawns New IndustrialChemistry.

Some Astronomical Serendipities.

Accidental Medical Discoveries.

Substitute Sugar: How Sweet It Is--And Non-Fattening.

Nylon: Cold-Drawing Does the Trick.

Velcro and Other Gifts from Serendipity for Modern Living.

Conceptions, Misconceptions, and Accidents in OrganicSynthesis.

Epilogue: How Accidents Become Discoveries.