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!
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.
Have any happy accidents shaped your life?