Where components make up “Serendipity?”

Serendipity is the concept of discovering some unknown piece of information without specifically searching for it.  There are many views on exactly where serendipity comes from, but it can be argued that it is derived from a balance of luck, education, and skill.  Many important discoveries have been made over the years through serendipity, such as Coca-Cola and chocolate chips. While many scientists carefully plan out their experiments in search of a specific conclusion, serendipity can lead to discoveries that are just as useful. However, the one who encounters the new information must know what to do next or at least be driven to explore further.

Luck plays a tremendous role in the process of serendipity. In order for a discovery to be serendipitous, the scientist must not look for the result. Sometimes when one looks for one answer, they find something entirely different and unexpected. Occurrences like this can lead scientists down other paths, straying away from their original experiment but taking them to a whole new range of opportunities. Luck enters into serendipity by randomly being presented to an individual. What happens after the opportunity is presented is dependent on how well the person is prepared for such an unexpected happening.

Education is the component of serendipity which occurs before the discovery. Without any prior knowledge of the subject matter that yields the new discovery, a scientist might not even realize what they have found. In 1886, pharmacist Dr. John Stith Pemberton came upon his recipe for the beverage Coca-Cola. He had previous knowledge of the substances he was working with, but his original formula contained alcohol and was used as medicine. Due to the Prohibition laws, he had to conjure up a new recipe without alcohol. His reformulated recipe called for water, but he accidentally used carbonated water. Rather than disregard his mistake, Dr. Pemberton embraced the effects and marketed his new beverage. The recipe has been altered again since then, but serendipity is credited for the original Coca-Cola that is so popular today. (http://www.enchantedlearning.com/inventors/food.shtml)

Scientists must also possess the skills needed to pursue their discovery. Once they experience luck and they have the education to understand the unexpected results, they must apply their findings to science, potentially making a discovery that could alter the world. Some other ways in which serendipity has influenced the world is the discovery of chocolate chips, and popsicles. Chocolate chip cookies came about when a baker included bits of semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a batch of cookies, expecting the chocolate to melt and spread throughout the cookie. The baker had enough experience to recognize what happened, and the skill to complete further experimentation. Her hypothesis was incorrect, but due to this discovery, we still enjoy chocolate chip cookies today.

My opinion of serendipity is that it certainly deserves to be recognized as valid discovery by scientists because of the three conditions, luck, education, and skill. Some scientists do not credit serendipitous discoveries to the individual who made the discovery because of the luck component. They believe scientists should only receive credit for work they searched for it using a detailed experiment. While I understand how a scientist would see serendipity like this, I believe more strongly that the individual who makes the discovery has exerted proof of enough quality background knowledge and has pursued the topic enough to deserve credit based on the process as a whole.


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