With a Little Bit of Luck: 11 Serendipitous Discoveries: Surprising Stories of Amazing Discoveries

With a Little Bit of Luck: 11 Serendipitous Discoveries: Surprising Stories of Amazing Discoveries

by Dennis Brindell Fradin
     
 

Luck + genius = serendipity. From Isaac Newton’s sudden grasp of gravity to Alexander Fleming’s chance development of penicillin, from fossils to the Dead Sea Scrolls, rubber balls to nuclear fission, history is brimming with stories of fantastic lucky breaks.Though genius and hard work play an important part, the luck of many scientists,

Overview

Luck + genius = serendipity. From Isaac Newton’s sudden grasp of gravity to Alexander Fleming’s chance development of penicillin, from fossils to the Dead Sea Scrolls, rubber balls to nuclear fission, history is brimming with stories of fantastic lucky breaks.Though genius and hard work play an important part, the luck of many scientists, explorers, and inventors has led to breakthroughs that revolutionized our world.

In lively and accessible prose, award-winning author Dennis Fradin reveals the thrilling stories behind 11 monumental discoveries, as well as the tragedies and triumphs of the fascinating men and women behind these advances. Illustrated with historical photos and engravings.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
Reading these stories is almost like reading a book of short stories. The plot, tension, and characters are all there. All true. And represent the best of non-fiction storytelling. Working through the history of some of the world's biggest discoveries—from gravity to penicillin to pulsars—Fradin first introduces the protagonist, the one who will be the discoverer. They are not all happy people. Some are poor. Some are compulsive. Some are not believed. But they are all persistent, and in the end, successful in their pursuit of science. Fradin covers eleven discoveries and does a good job of highlighting both men and women, and both known discoveries (such as gravity) as well as lesser known (such as the first cave drawings). Students will pick up this book to write a report on a specific scientist but will end up reading the whole thing, caught up by Fradin's storytelling, as well as his excellent scientific explanations of the work the scientists were doing. When writing about Clyde Tombaugh and the search for planet X, Fradin breaks into his own narrative to explain how Tombaugh was his hero as he grew up, and how the interview made Fradin nervous. Instead of distracting from the story, this makes both the writer and the scientist more real and more enjoyable. Back matter includes an afterword and a list of bibliographic sources.
Children's Literature - Ellen R. Butts
Luck, coincidence, serendipity--words that describe how the discoveries in this book were made. Curious, persistent, and determined describe the dispositions of their discoverers. As Dennis Fradin says in his introduction, "While luck often plays a role in discoveries, the trick is to be observant enough to take advantage of a serendipitous occurrence." Readers probably know about some of the "coincidences" he has included, like Newton's apple or Fleming's mold. Others, like Mary Anning's dinosaur or Jocelyn Bell's pulsars, are relatively unknown. The author is chatty and entertaining, like a best friend. In each chapter, he provides biography, both historic and scientific context, and other interesting details about his subjects. He shows them to be passionate, almost obsessed, about their work. They persisted despite derision and failure and many were very successful. Charles Goodyear, for example, became wealthy and lived to discover about 500 uses for rubber. But the lives of a few ended in disaster. For example, three of the four men credited with discovering anesthesia died tragically. One of them, Charles Johnson was so overwhelmed to learn that another man was credited as the discoverer of anesthesia that he went insane on the spot. He was taken away to an asylum, kicking and screaming. This book would be a lively addition to any library, especially for its original point of view.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-This anthology documents the lives and work of scientists whose intelligence, mixed with a bit of luck, led to groundbreaking discoveries: anesthesia, vulcanized rubber, penicillin, Pluto, bacteria, nuclear fission, and more. There is a good balance of text and images, and particularly notable is the author's gift of brevity. Grayscale reproductions of relevant photographs and sketches appear throughout. Fradin's writing is engaging. He concludes with Alex Wolszczan's 1990 discovery of millisecond pulsars to make his point: "Discoveries are still being made." Readers are invited to welcome serendipity and be vigilant to follow up and explore where it may lead.-Jodi Kearns, University of Akron, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Developing the theme that paying attention can lead to sometimes revolutionary discoveries, Fradin presents 11 case studies in serendipity, from fossil-hunter Mary Anning and Newton's apple to Jocelyn Bell's discovery of pulsars. He not only writes clearly and forcefully, but brings uncommon authority to several of his profiles. He interviewed or corresponded with not only Bell, but Clyde Tombaugh (discoverer of Pluto), a surviving son of Maria Sanz de Santuola, who as a child found the cave paintings at Altamira and a scholar familiar with Muhammad Ahmed el-Hamed, the Palestinian who as a lad found the Dead Sea Scrolls. The author rightly notes at the outset that preparation and particular traits of character, such as innate stubbornness or strong curiosity, played roles at least as vital as luck did in each discovery-but he urges readers to follow the advice of Dr. Alex Wolszczan (first extra-solar planets): "Keep your eyes wide open for something unusual at all times." Not bad advice. An exhilarating companion for the likes of Charlotte Jones's Mistakes That Worked (1991). (photos, source notes) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525471967
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/02/2006
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
7.38(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.72(d)
Lexile:
1130L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Fradin . . . brings uncommon authority to several of his profiles.Exhilarating.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Caught by the thrilling science and the personal adventure, many readers will go on to find out more.” —Booklist, starred review

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