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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Serendipity & Great Inventions Myths Mistakes & Creative Error

The subject of the myths in science together with the importance of trans-, cross- or interdisciplinarity in scientific invention and innovation ("the latter being a sort of assisted serendipity") was recently brought to my attention, again, by a french friend, "James Clark". No, no, you are reading me correctly, James Clark is french.

The recent obituary, in The Economist, of Nobel Prize winner: Paul Lauterbur, father of MRI, who died on March 27th, at the fairly early age of 77, illustrates these themes rather well and how even the best, Macmillan press of Scots origin, can make mistakes, by refusing Paul's first paper in on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance(NMR)-Imagery in 1971. Perhaps this hurdle in 1971 spured Paul to even greater heights, from a near bust company started in 1971 to a shared Nobel Prize in Medicine 2003?

"THE whole history of modern science, Paul Lauterbur once joked, might be written on the basis of papers turned down by academic journals. His own experience was a case in point. In 1971 he sent a paper to Nature; it was rejected. The Nature folk were especially unimpressed by the fuzziness of the pictures that accompanied the piece."
ref. The Economist, UK. [Link]

To add a little more colour to this somewhat sad post,here is a lively, witty poem I like, by Norma Bruce refering to Research & Serendipity and more, entitled "The night Research went on a joy ride"[Link]