Serendipity – A Fortunate Accident

Dear readers, coming close to the end of a terrific year I would like to share the significance of a word I came across a long time back  – “serendipity”, a rather bemusing word of the English language.

Serendipity is the art of fortunate accidents- finding something by a happy chance. There are certain moments in life when we head towards one thing and find ourselves miles away from that, but significantly happier. To quote Lawrence Black

“When you look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for, it is serendipity.”

I might not be the best at analogies, but might I suggest, it is like looking for a needle in a haystack and finding a kitten resting somewhere in there.

Horace Walpole, the author of what is known as the first English Gothic novel, is the one who coined the word ‘serendipity’ in one of the 3000 odd letters which are the most celebrated parts of his literary reputation. The inspiration was drawn from an old name for Sri Lanka that was used by Arabs ‘Serendib’. It came from a Persian fairytale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”, a tale of three young nobles you stumble upon delights that they were not in search of.  In a letter dated January 28, 1754, Walpole says

“This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call serendipity, a very expressive word .”

While some people of science might shy away from admitting that sometimes they stumble upon discoveries and ideas and answers by a happy chance, many whole heartedly agree that  serendipity and synergy lend a big hand to all sorts of scientific advancement. M K Stoskopf, in his paper Observation and Cogitation: How Serendipity Provides the Building Blocks of Scientific Discovery lays it out loud and clear that serendipity is often a pillar advancement relies upon.

In the words of Sir Isaac Asimov

“the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds discoveries, is not ‘ Eureka’, but ‘ that’s funny ..’. ”

Photography by Louis Daguerre or Velcro by Georges de Mestral, or one could argue even gravity by Newton, are stories of an accidental discovery in exploration. Granted, these are the consequences of the insatiable human tendency for exploration that strives to find more and find new. It has helped in the discovery of great lands like North and South America, Brazil, and an entirely new continent by Christopher Columbus who was actually looking for a new way to India.

The simple truth is that serendipity is a powerful process within our social networking that helps achieve goals and objectives, whether business or personal. However readers, always believe in yourself and remember that chance favors only the prepared minds.

Ramita Misra 

Division 1 

First Year

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