Book – Serendipity


Accidental Discoveries in Science
by Royston M. Roberts
1989

This is a difficult book to describe. It is, for the most part, a compendium of serendipitous discoveries made in science over the centuries. In that sense, it’s a resource. The author writes in multiple layers of technical depth, making the stories compelling and meaningful for everyone from layman to expert. Using the storytelling approach works well. This is definitely not a dry text book. The reader often almost feels the presence of author in the same room. The author was an award-winning chemist, but he was first and foremost a teacher. His generosity began with doctoral and masters candidates under his charge, then university texts, then to the lay public, and ultimately he wrote a children’s book with his daughter.

Serendipity was an important, even revered concept to him. The recent resurgence of this mid-eighteenth century word was noted in that ‘serendipity’ was absent from the 1939 and 1959 editions of a well-known dictionary, but appeared after 1974.

Not much of the book is spent in abstraction or philosophy. It is rather left up to the reader to further explore serendipity. The author states, “I hope that this book will be a stimulus for you…” Perhaps a true understanding of serendipity is serendipitous.

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