Bowl depicting Bahram Gur, and the harpist Azada. Iran, last 12th?early 13th centuries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
A natural gift for making useful discoveries quite by accident
The word has its roots in The Three Princes of Serendip, a Persian story about three princes who had the knack of discovering things quite by chance. The British statesman Horace Walpole read the story as a child, and later coined the word serendipity in a letter in 1754. Walpole wrote about learning some news quite by chance, and stated that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word."
In one story, a merchant stops the Three Princes on the road and asks them if they have seen one of his camels. Although they have not, they mystify the merchant by asking him if the lost camel is blind in one eye, missing a tooth and lame. The merchant, impressed by the accuracy of the description, immediately hurries off in search of the animal. After a futile search, and feeling deceived, he returns to the princes, who reassure him by supplying further information. The camel, they say, carried a load of butter on one side and honey on the other, and was ridden by a pregnant woman. Concluding that the princes have stolen the camel, the merchant has them imprisoned. It is only after someone finds the camel that they are released. The princes are brought before King Bahram Gur, who asks them how they could give such an accurate description of a camel they had never seen. It is clear from the princes? reply that they had brilliantly interpreted the scant evidence observed along the road. Bahram lavishes them with rich rewards and appoints them as his advisors.
One of the famous recent examples of serendipity has to be Viagra. It started its life as a potential treatment for angina, and was being tested in clinical trials. As an angina treatment, it was pretty useless, but then the researchers began to get reports of some unexpected side effects.
Yesterday's lunch included Salad with Carambola (star fruit).
1. Acknowledging a mistake. An exclamation of mild surprise or of apology.
3. Public's money
The leader of the Conservative Party's Members of the European Parliament has quit that role after he admitted breaking expenses rules.
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