Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science / Edition 1

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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.

Penicillin, nylon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Neanderthal man, Velcro -- all were discovered by accident. This fascinating book tells the truth about these and other scientific milestones.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book is a collection of anecdotal ``re caps'' of the accidental discoveries that led to revolutionary scientific develop ment, including Edward Jenner's creation of the smallpox vaccine and Newton's gravity theory. Roberts tells us that Jen ner made the fortuitous connection be tween cowpox and smallpox by investi gating the claim of a milkmaid who avoided smallpox illness in the barnyard. Likewise, a shrewd Newton developed gravitational theory while observing the fall of the fa mous apple. It's clear that Roberts chemis try, Univ. of Texas feels most engaged and comfortable in the fields of chemistry and biology, for these sections are the largest and the most informative and concisely written. Elsewhere, the book suffers from a choppy and dry presentation. Recom mended for larger subject collections only.--Lauren Bielski, New York
Roberts (chemistry, U. of Texas) presents a popular account of the subject for general readers. Includes accounts of penicillin, vaccines, nylon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Neanderthal man, gravity, etc. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471602033
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 7/28/1989
  • Series: Wiley Science Editions Series, #15
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,462,575
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents

Partial table of contents:

Archimedes—The First Streaker.

A Sick Indian Discovers Quinine.

The Electric Battery and Electromagnetism—From a Frog's Leg and Compass.

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 Industrial Chemistry.

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 Organic Synthesis.

Epilogue: How Accidents Become Discoveries.



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