[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Article
December 21, 1957

MEDICINE'S "HAPPY ACCIDENTS"

JAMA. 1957;165(16):2088-2089. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.02980340054015

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.

Abstract

Van Leeuwenhoek focuses a magnifying glass on a drop of water instead of a fly's leg—and out of his hobby grows the science of bacteriology. Pasteur unintentionally inoculates chickens with a stale cholera culture—and a new kind of preventive medicine is born. Fleming leaves a Petri dish uncovered—and the penicillin age begins.

These are just a few of medicine's many "happy accidents." The more precise word is "serendipity": finding a good thing unexpectedly while searching for something else. But can such discoveries really be attributed to luck? It took a burning curiosity to seek the nature of those swarms of "bugs" swimming in the drop of water under a Dutch microscope. It took years of evaluation experience to find out why the inoculated hens of France not only survived but became immune. It took an acquired perspicacity to understand what was happening to bacteria in the moldy Petri dish of

First Page Preview View Large
First page PDF preview
First page PDF preview
×