The Serendipity Of Science

As I’ve shared here before, I make my living as a patent attorney. I’ve even co-authored a book on patent law and have an award-winning patent legal blog

Patent Reform Book

I spent so many late nights writing and editing this book!

The Wikipedia definition of serendipity discusses several examples of important scientific discoveries that came about by serendipity–penicillin and Post-It® note paper are well-known for their accidental origins.

Most inventions I work on weren’t made by accident, but it helps to have a good story of how the invention was made. What problem was the inventor trying to solve? What technical difficulties did the inventor have to overcome? These are questions I ask when a client comes to me with a new invention.

One invention I worked on didn’t have a particularly good story. The inventor faced a typical problem, chose among common options to solve it, and basically made a lucky guess that turned out to yield particularly fantastic results. We came to describe the invention as serendipitous, and made that point when obtaining patents around the world–until I learned that “serendipity” makes most lists of top ten words that are hard to translate. Oops!

Letters Patent

My path to becoming a patent lawyer was serendipitous (which apparently is even harder to translate). I was ready to re-join the workforce after staying home for a year after my daughter was born when I saw a help wanted ad for a technical writer at a law firm. Armed with a B.S. in Chemistry and decent writing skills from my liberal arts education, I was able to make it through the interview without letting on that I never had seen a patent before. 😉 Flash-forward twenty-four years and I’ve gone to law school, made partner, and still love what I do every day.

Today’s Wednesday Word is serendipity.

Deb Runs


Have any happy accidents shaped your life?

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17 Responses to The Serendipity Of Science

  1. Carla says:

    First, serendipity is my favorite word. Little known me-fact?:-)
    Next I love this.
    It’s the behind the scenes of the blogger posts I enjoy the most. I’m old-school 🙂
    Carla recently posted…6 Ways Dr. Seuss Taught Me About Healthy Living.My Profile

  2. So much of my life has turned out serendipitously. Or, as my former physician partner called it, dumb luck. I’ll just go with that. Things have turned out just fine!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Running SerendipitouslyMy Profile

  3. I didn’t know your whole background of how you became a patent attorney. So interesting! It is a hard word to describe isn’t it?
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…3 Pre Run Stretches To Enhance Your Run In Under 5 minutesMy Profile

  4. Wow, this is so interesting. So fun to learn new facts about you outside of the realm of running!

  5. Wow! Your story to becoming a patent attorney is definitely serendipitous.

    As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad was also a patent attorney & he loved what he did, too. He worked for IBM, though, not a private firm.

    Not long ago I asked him why he decided to become a patent attorney, and sadly, he didn’t remember.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Serendipitous: Being in the Right Place at the Right TimeMy Profile

  6. karen says:

    That is quite a list of accomplishments 🙂
    I am intrigued by how people think out of the box to come with new ideas.
    karen recently posted…Buckle Up!My Profile

  7. Lauren says:

    Wow, I didn’t know your whole background story! So cool!! It is so very interesting to me to see how inventions come full circle…penicillin is a great example of that!
    Lauren recently posted…Serendipitous HabitsMy Profile

  8. Nice to learn more of the behind the scenes story of Coco! Nice work lady! Impressive, never let them see you sweat 🙂 !
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Do you believe in Serendipity?My Profile

  9. Tamieka says:

    When I think of my life now, I feel like it is all serendipitous and still unbelievable!

    That is so cool that you are a Patent lawyer!!

  10. What a wonderful story of how you came to be a patent attorney.

    Thanks for linking up!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Dear Running – Our First Serendipitous MeetingMy Profile

  11. Marcia says:

    I’m seeing a meme here: ….One does not simply become a patent attorney….
    This was so fascinating to read more about what you do.
    Marcia recently posted…#BeFitAllYear and a GiveawayMy Profile

  12. Annie says:

    Beautiful story.
    I wish success to you!

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