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Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs (Audiobook)

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What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, antidepressants, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, found in the search for something else. Winston Churchill once said, ÒMen occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.Ó Happy accidents take place every day, but it requir What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, antidepressants, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, found in the search for something else. Winston Churchill once said, ÒMen occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.Ó Happy accidents take place every day, but it requires intelligence, insight, and creativity to recognize a ÒEureka!Ó moment when it occurs, and to know what to do next.Drawing on personal experience, research, and interviews with winners of the Nobel Prize and other prestigious awards, Morton A. Meyers uncovers the surprising role of serendipity in four major fields of medical advancesÑinfectious disease, cancer, heart disease, and mental disorders. He exposes the factors that stifle innovation and proposes steps to foster a more creative approach to science. It may just save our lives!


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What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, antidepressants, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, found in the search for something else. Winston Churchill once said, ÒMen occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.Ó Happy accidents take place every day, but it requir What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, antidepressants, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, found in the search for something else. Winston Churchill once said, ÒMen occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.Ó Happy accidents take place every day, but it requires intelligence, insight, and creativity to recognize a ÒEureka!Ó moment when it occurs, and to know what to do next.Drawing on personal experience, research, and interviews with winners of the Nobel Prize and other prestigious awards, Morton A. Meyers uncovers the surprising role of serendipity in four major fields of medical advancesÑinfectious disease, cancer, heart disease, and mental disorders. He exposes the factors that stifle innovation and proposes steps to foster a more creative approach to science. It may just save our lives!

30 review for Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs (Audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    Kindle quotes: Vladimir Nabokov bridged the tension between the rational and the intuitive in his observation that “there is no science without fancy and no art without fact.” - location 389 One day, when Rothstein walked into his lab, he noticed a box of detergent that was used in the lab to clean glassware. On the box, surrounded by a flashy red star, were the words “New Improved Dreft.” Comparing its label to that of an old box of Dreft, Rothstein saw that the new version contained an added in Kindle quotes: Vladimir Nabokov bridged the tension between the rational and the intuitive in his observation that “there is no science without fancy and no art without fact.” - location 389 One day, when Rothstein walked into his lab, he noticed a box of detergent that was used in the lab to clean glassware. On the box, surrounded by a flashy red star, were the words “New Improved Dreft.” Comparing its label to that of an old box of Dreft, Rothstein saw that the new version contained an added ingredient—a water softener. As it turned out, this softener coated glass tenaciously and chemically bound the material Rothstein was studying (uranium ions) to the surface of the glass. His creative mind then made an extraordinary leap. He wondered about a possible analogy: If there is binding on the surface of glass, could there be binding on the surface of a cell? Seizing upon this capability of the chemical in the water softener, he went on to prove that there are binding sites on the cell surface as well. Fortune had provided him with a contaminant similar to the natural enzymes involved in transport across the cell membrane. But Fortune might have come calling in vain if not for Rothstein's ability to draw the essential analogy. Some ten years before the cell membrane could actually be seen with the development of electron microscopy, Rothstein's “accidental” discovery enabled him to show that it was a metabolically active structure containing enzymes critical in transport mechanisms. - location 408 the open mind embraces serendipity and converts a stumbling block into a stepping-stone. As Winston Churchill whimsically observed, “Men occasionally stumble across the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” - location 447 Leeuwenhoek wanted to find out, by the microscopic examination of macerated peppercorns, why pepper is hot. (He thought the peppercorns might have spikes on their surface). - location 589 Classically referred to as “consumption,” human tuberculosis was then responsible for one in seven of all European deaths. - location 694 If, he reasoned, there were dye receptors—structures that received dyes—there might be drug receptors, substances fixed by microbes but not by the human host. In this way, the concept of “magic bullets” was born. His basic idea, or hypothesis, was that since some dyes selectively stained bacteria and protozoa, substances might be found that would be selectively absorbed by the parasites and would kill them without damaging the host. Ehrlich termed fighting diseases with chemicals “chemotherapy” (a term that came to be used exclusively for cancer treatments) and later allowed that “initially, chemotherapy was chromotherapy,” meaning treatment with dyes. - location 778 To remind himself of an important forthcoming task or something he must not forget, he would on occasion send himself a postcard. - location 787 protozoologist - location 813 The first patient was a ten-month-old infant severely ill with staphylococcal septicemia (blood poisoning), a condition from which no one had ever been known to recover. Treating the baby with Prontosil was a daring gamble on Domagk's part. If the child had not survived, it would not have been clear whether the drug or the disease had killed him. The child's skin turned red, and his physicians were able to calm his excited nurse only by explaining that the drug was basically a dye. - location 942 After this incident, the Hitler regime established a Nazi Party Prize that could be won only by a German of impeccable Aryan ancestry and decreed that acceptance of a Nobel Prize was forbidden. Domagk sought advice from the authorities on whether it would be possible to accept the prize. Two weeks later he was arrested by the Gestapo and forced to send a letter drafted for him by the Nazi government refusing the prize. After being released from jail, he confided in his diary: “My attitude to life and its ideals had been shattered.”10 When he was arrested a second time while traveling to Berlin for an international medical conference, he realized that he was under constant surveillance and thereafter acted cautiously to protect himself and his family. These experiences plunged him into years of depression. Only after the war, in 1947, was he able to travel to Stockholm to receive his Nobel Prize medal—but not the prize money, which had been redistributed. - location 1007 In 1937 shortly after young FDR Jr. recovered from his serious infection, a small Tennessee firm named Massengill and Company, which made pharmaceuticals for animals, began marketing a sulfa drug for people. To make it more easily administered to children in a sweet liquid form, they dissolved the drug in diethyl glycol, a commercial solvent used to make antifreeze, and sold it widely throughout the South as “Elixir of Sulfanilamide.” The company tested neither the solvent nor the final product for toxicity. Within weeks, more than a hundred people died, most of them children. The company's president refused to take responsibility and came to be convicted only on a technicality: the fact that the word elixir means a medicine containing alcohol, and there was none in the product sold. Massengill's chief chemist committed suicide. The incident outraged the public, and Congress, and on June 15, 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, providing for safety tests on drugs before they could be marketed. This milestone legislation twenty years later spared the United States from the thalidomide tragedy. - location 1054 More than 60 percent of German deaths during the Franco-Prussian War were attributed to typhoid. - location 1081 During the Boer War, Wright was grudgingly given permission from the War Office to inoculate “such men as should voluntarily present themselves.” However, the army medical authorities were more worried by the body's reaction to vaccination—which often rendered a soldier unfit for several days—and therefore ordered many troopships departing for the war to throw caseloads of Wright's vaccines overboard. With only 4 percent volunteering to be vaccinated, 13,000 soldiers were lost to typhoid on the South African veld as against 8,000 battle deaths. (When giving evidence before a military tribunal, Wright was asked if he had anything more to say. His response was typically blunt: “No, sir. I have given you the facts. I can't give you the brains.”)2 - location 1084 (Fleming was generally so laconic that one of his colleagues claimed that trying to have a conversation with him was like playing tennis with a man who, when he received a serve, put the ball in his pocket.) - location 1100 Wright and Fleming made two significant observations regarding the ineffectiveness of the traditional use of antiseptic methods in curing established infections. Not only were antiseptics, such as carbolic acid, not reaching the many hidden crevasses of the deep, jagged war wounds typically caused by shrapnel, where bacteria could flourish, but the antiseptics themselves were destroying the white blood cells that were part of the body's natural immune system. - location 1110 About half of the 10 million soldiers killed in World War I died not directly from explosives, bullets, shrapnel, or poison gases but from infections in often relatively mild wounds. - location 1115 Fleming would surprise himself with a chance revelation. In November 1921 he had a cold. While he was working at his laboratory bench at St. Mary's, a drop from his runny nose fell on a Petri dish and “lysed” (dissolved) some colonies of bacteria. These common, harmless airborne microbes became translucent, glassy, and lifeless in appearance. Excited, Fleming prepared a cloudy solution of the bacteria and added some fresh nasal mucus to it. The young bacteriologist V. D. Allison, who was working with Fleming at the time, described what happened next: “To our surprise the opaque suspension became in the space of less than two minutes as clear as water…. It was an astonishing and thrilling moment.”4 Fleming had discovered lysozyme, a naturally occurring antiseptic substance present in tears, nasal mucus, and saliva. In order to gather such secretions to extend his investigations, he made colleagues, technicians, and even visitors weep batches of tears by putting drops of lemon juice into their eyes. Peering through his microscope, he marveled that bacteria in the presence of tears became swollen and transparent, then simply disappeared before his eyes. - location 1122 The extract, however, was unstable, losing its efficacy over a period of weeks, and he could not isolate and purify the active principle from the mold filtrate. To his detriment, he was not a chemist and had little background and limited resources for studies on the “mold juice,” as he called it. - location 1222 America's entry into the war in December 1941 guaranteed a total dedication to a project that would ultimately benefit battlefield casualties. Military personnel were ordered to gather handfuls of soil from around the world in the hope of tracking down a fungus that produced high quantities of penicillin. Mold from soil samples flown in by the Army Transport Command from Cape Town, Bombay, and Chungking were the front-runners. In the end, the army was beaten by Mary Hunt, a laboratory aide who one day brought in a yellow mold she had discovered growing on a rotten cantaloupe at a fruit market right in Peoria. This proved to be Penicillium chrysogenum, a strain that produced 3,000 times more penicillin than Fleming's original mold!29 This made commercial production of penicillin feasible. The laboratory assistant was called Moldy Mary for the rest of her life. - location 1364 In a disastrous fire on the night of November 28, 1942, at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston, 492 people perished. Penicillin was successfully used to treat 220 badly burned casualties. But the public remained ignorant of this “miracle,” as penicillin was then classified as a military secret. With the end of the war, the necessity for secrecy came to an end, and in March 1945 commercial sales began. - location 1397 In 1952, two years after the settlement, Waksman became the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, even though Nobel regulations allow up to three people to share it. Schatz waged an unsuccessful campaign to obtain a share of the Nobel Prize. Burton Feldman, a historian of Nobel awards, uncharitably refers to Waksman as getting the Nobel “for not discovering streptomycin.” - location 1619 In 1856 two German scientists, Albert von Kölliker and Heinrich Müller, accidentally discovered electrical activity in cardiac muscle.1 Working with frog preparations, they had excised a leg nerve with its attached muscle and had just opened the chest wall of a second frog when they were called out of the laboratory. Upon returning, they encountered an astonishing and wholly unexpected phenomenon. The muscle of the excised preparation from the first frog was contracting along with the heartbeat of the second frog. The cause was evident: they had inadvertently dropped the first frog's excised nerve end on the exposed surface of the heart of the second frog. They accidentally discovered that the heart produces an electrical current with each beat. - location 3217 In 1928 he extracted a compound from a cow's adrenal gland, not yet recognizing it as vitamin C. Thinking he had isolated a new sugarlike hormone, he named it “ignose,” the suffix -ose being used by chemists for sugars or carbohydrates (like glucose and fructose) and the igno- part indicating he was ignorant of the substance's structure. The editor of the Biochemical Journal did not share his humor and rejected the submitted manuscript. When Szent-Györgyi's second suggestion for a name, “Godnose,” was similarly rejected, he settled upon the name hexuronic acid, based upon the known six carbon atoms in the formula. He subsequently identified it as ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1937. - location 5235

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is an excellent book about the many scientific discoveries over the years, but specifically those that were discovered by 'accident'. ".... many of the most essential medical discoveries in history came about .... because someone stumbled upon an answer and, after some creative thought, figured out what problem had been inadvertently solved." Some of these serendipitous discoveries include: Viagra, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, surgical gloves, the Pap Smear. All were dis This is an excellent book about the many scientific discoveries over the years, but specifically those that were discovered by 'accident'. ".... many of the most essential medical discoveries in history came about .... because someone stumbled upon an answer and, after some creative thought, figured out what problem had been inadvertently solved." Some of these serendipitous discoveries include: Viagra, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, surgical gloves, the Pap Smear. All were discovered while looking for something else. The book concludes with the importance of scientists to embrace the evidence wherever it leads and to recognize any new possibilities, without being hindered from using their natural talents for finding the truth with a 'passionate intensity'. The author goes on to stress the need to encourage this kind of research. "We must consider whether our current educational obsessions and fashions are likely to help or hinder serendipity in the future and ask how we can nurture a penchant for serendipitous discovery in today's children and future generations." Nathan Kline is quoted and it seems to summarize the intent of this book: "If we were to eliminate from science all the great discoveries that had come about as the result of mistaken hypotheses or fluky experimental data, we would be lacking half of what we now know (or think we know)."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allyson Dyar

    Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs – When Scientists Find What They’re NOT Looking For by Morton A. Meyers, M.D. is exactly what the title touts: many medical breakthroughs are a matter of being at the right place at the right time or as Louis Pasteur is quoted to have said, “In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.” The book is chock full of stories of accidental discovery where scientists were looking for one thing and found another or were just p Happy Accidents: Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs – When Scientists Find What They’re NOT Looking For by Morton A. Meyers, M.D. is exactly what the title touts: many medical breakthroughs are a matter of being at the right place at the right time or as Louis Pasteur is quoted to have said, “In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.” The book is chock full of stories of accidental discovery where scientists were looking for one thing and found another or were just poking around to see what shook out of the trees. The tales of discovery of the usual ones familiar to those of us Medical Historians: the discovery of penicillin, the discovery of Salvarsan 606 and others. I was amused to note that Dr Meyers didn’t mention that Viagara’s serendipitous discovery came about because during the test as a hypertension medication, male patients refused to hand over the unused samples. (It’s possible that this is an apocryphal story, still it’s a good one). As long as Dr Meyer was relating the stories of discovery and serendipity, this was a decent book to read. In fact, despite my vast knowledge of medical history, even I was surprised by the events of Bari during World War II where an attack on the port caused mustard gas to be released. Subsequent treatment of the attack victims showed that mustard gas had depressed the body’s white cell, which led to the discovery of chemotherapy agents against leukemia and lymphoma. However, when Dr Meyer became more contemplative, the book tended to go into the weeds. In fact, as I plodded through his introduction, I had to remind myself that this was a second read and if I hadn’t liked the book the first time, it would have been sitting on my shelf. In essence, I’d suggest skipping the introduction and the conclusion and just confine yourself to the meat. I normally don’t review the Notes section of a book, but in this case, there are some good background Notes. There are times I wish that the footnotes were placed at the bottom of the page so I didn’t have to hop back and forth between them. I give this book a solid 3.5 though Goodreads doesn’t allow for half stars; there, I gave the book 4 stars there. It’s a good read, but stick to the tales of discovery, not the author’s pontifications. Unlike previous books of late, this was a hardcover from my personal library as I am continuing my quest of re-reading books I’d read years ago so I can write reviews. Didn’t realize I was so close to finishing this book, otherwise, I would have picked out a book for the next read. So if you want to know what I’m currently reading, check out my Goodreads. (Reviewed 09 March, 2014)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Piinhuann Chew

    We invent by intention; we discover by surprise - Intention per se is enough. Blueprint is not needed. - Without intention there won't be blueprint The ability to seize on serendipity was the mark of a major scientist "Disovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought," Not scientists who merely plodded rationally from point A to point B, but rather those who came upon X in the course of looking for Y too-close attention to detail may obscure the view of the whol We invent by intention; we discover by surprise - Intention per se is enough. Blueprint is not needed. - Without intention there won't be blueprint The ability to seize on serendipity was the mark of a major scientist "Disovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought," Not scientists who merely plodded rationally from point A to point B, but rather those who came upon X in the course of looking for Y too-close attention to detail may obscure the view of the whole if one's perspective is too tightly focused, gross distortion may result. the human tendency to believe that one's partial view of an image-or, indeed, a view of the world captures its entirety "We see only what we know." his mother would ask not "Did you learn anything today?" but "Did you ask a good question today?" - Did you do a good job today < Did you do something new today < Did you trouble/problem yourself today < Did you do a bad job today truth is hard to discover and hard to attain, unless, you expect the unexpected

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Someone mentioned this book after a dosing miscalculation in testing the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was said to have actually increased its effectiveness. While it's not clear that those results have since held up, this book was an eye-opening look at many cases where accidental discoveries in medicine certainly have had a lasting impact. I knew about the famous cases of penicillin and Viagra, but had no idea just how many more examples there were, including such important things as che Someone mentioned this book after a dosing miscalculation in testing the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was said to have actually increased its effectiveness. While it's not clear that those results have since held up, this book was an eye-opening look at many cases where accidental discoveries in medicine certainly have had a lasting impact. I knew about the famous cases of penicillin and Viagra, but had no idea just how many more examples there were, including such important things as chemotherapy and antidepressants. The number of cases and Meyers' writing makes each chapter fairly short and snappy. I don't have a medical or biochemical background, but he explains the discoveries and their importance in an easily understandable way. The book ends with a rallying call from the author to shake up the structures of modern medical research, which often seem to be preventing serendipity rather than encouraging it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marlee Pearl

    I read the book happy accidents and personally I loved it. I am very interested in medicine so I am very interested in this. This book is about many doctors that experiments with medicine and i love finding cures by doing experiments. This book is based on different experiments that were real and how doctors found some cures that did end up saving peoples lives. I really liked this book, I want to be a doctor when I grow up and this gave me a better understanding of how doctors work and the chal I read the book happy accidents and personally I loved it. I am very interested in medicine so I am very interested in this. This book is about many doctors that experiments with medicine and i love finding cures by doing experiments. This book is based on different experiments that were real and how doctors found some cures that did end up saving peoples lives. I really liked this book, I want to be a doctor when I grow up and this gave me a better understanding of how doctors work and the challenges they face.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm going to go ahead and call this one a DNF. It's been sitting on my pile, half-read, for a while now and I just can't make myself go back to it. The stories are fine. They've just been told a lot, so there's nothing really new or interesting or revelatory. In fact the premise itself seems like a re-tread. Sorta boring. Not worth finishing when there are eleventy billion fantastic, compelling books waiting to be read. I'm going to go ahead and call this one a DNF. It's been sitting on my pile, half-read, for a while now and I just can't make myself go back to it. The stories are fine. They've just been told a lot, so there's nothing really new or interesting or revelatory. In fact the premise itself seems like a re-tread. Sorta boring. Not worth finishing when there are eleventy billion fantastic, compelling books waiting to be read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yates Buckley

    A series of entertaining reconstructions of key scientific discoveries that were largely happenstance. The book is informative, fun and leaves you with a view of science that is much less mysterious and a lot more luck and politics. The book emphasises the medical sciences which are a bit particular in comparison fo others in their ethical aspects and complexity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mary G.

    I enjoyed the stories in this book, but the organization and overall structure left a lot to be desired. With each story as its own chapter, the transitions feel really abrupt (some stories are just a page or two) and it’s hard I really get into the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    Many of the historic medical discovery came from serendipity rather than a rigid scientific process. It's important to realize the limit of human perception and be open to challenge, and make connection of unintended result. Many of the historic medical discovery came from serendipity rather than a rigid scientific process. It's important to realize the limit of human perception and be open to challenge, and make connection of unintended result.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Fascinating!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Great book that emphasizes the importance of classic trial and error, multidisciplinary thinking, serendipity, creativity etc. in medical research.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ette

    Interesting

  14. 5 out of 5

    TheBrainWorks

    While the author spends a lot of effort on listing examples of serendipity, it is the conclusion that is thought provoking and makes the book a worthwhile read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Florina

    Great book, especially if you are a microbiology geek. :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anna Marie

    I had a little bit of a slow start and this book was easy read a chapter or two and then set aside and return to. I found it interesting enough that I plan to re-read parts. The final chapter was especially informative as the author laments about the lack of serendipitous opportunities in today's big pharma for profit environment. This book was written in 2007. I had a little bit of a slow start and this book was easy read a chapter or two and then set aside and return to. I found it interesting enough that I plan to re-read parts. The final chapter was especially informative as the author laments about the lack of serendipitous opportunities in today's big pharma for profit environment. This book was written in 2007.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Amazingly well researched, a general introduction into the history of medical research from its earliest beginnings to modern day. He traces how each discovery came about and adds interesting background information that you might otherwise have never known, that make each case an entertaining tale rather than a dry textbook pronouncement you usually find in a medical text. In the final section of the book, Meyers points to several factors which he believes create an environment unsuitable for fo Amazingly well researched, a general introduction into the history of medical research from its earliest beginnings to modern day. He traces how each discovery came about and adds interesting background information that you might otherwise have never known, that make each case an entertaining tale rather than a dry textbook pronouncement you usually find in a medical text. In the final section of the book, Meyers points to several factors which he believes create an environment unsuitable for fostering medical advancement. The current structure of grant allocation discourages innovative ideas by refusing to give out grant proposals to novel ideas; inability of the medical profession at large to adapt to new theories (see length of time for bacterial theory of ulcers to be accepted despite prove); pharmaceutical companies focusing on marketing rather on research; centralization of resources to dictate direction of medical research (such as National Institution of Cancer), etc. Any of these factors would have prevented many of the most important medical discoveries from existing today if they had existed back in the 1900s. And perhaps because of it is because of that reason, there have been very little revolutionary breakthroughs in the field of medicine in the last couple decades.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Dvorak

    Many of today's best-known drugs were actually discovered accidentally or were originally targeted for a completely different disease. And a surprising number of medical procedures came about through unrelated research, often found by scientists in other fields. This book is full of surprising examples of serendipity, the accidental discovery of something unexpected. However, it's much more than just a compendium of such examples; Meyers makes some very good points about today's "medical-industr Many of today's best-known drugs were actually discovered accidentally or were originally targeted for a completely different disease. And a surprising number of medical procedures came about through unrelated research, often found by scientists in other fields. This book is full of surprising examples of serendipity, the accidental discovery of something unexpected. However, it's much more than just a compendium of such examples; Meyers makes some very good points about today's "medical-industrial complex" that treats research like an assembly line. With much of the grant money controlled by the National Institute of Health (NIH), where senior scientists decide who and which projects are funded, there's little room for general "fishing expedition" research, and almost no chance to follow up when unexpected results appear. Meanwhile, Big Medicine spends enormous amounts of money on advertising (how many "ask your doctor" ads do Americans see each day?) and research dedicated to tweaking existing drugs to preserve patent protection. These two facts, along with the regimented, rote-based medical education system, have made serendipitous discoveries much rarer.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This was informative and entertaining. The stories go by very quickly, and are easy to read. The conclusions get a little preachy, and over-simplify the complexities of modern medical research, but there are at least a couple of sentences that back off from the 'serendipity is the only hope' viewpoint. It tends to ignore the fact that while it is disparaging combinatorial and methodical chemistry approaches, several of the stories praise the researchers for synthesizing hundreds of compounds, of This was informative and entertaining. The stories go by very quickly, and are easy to read. The conclusions get a little preachy, and over-simplify the complexities of modern medical research, but there are at least a couple of sentences that back off from the 'serendipity is the only hope' viewpoint. It tends to ignore the fact that while it is disparaging combinatorial and methodical chemistry approaches, several of the stories praise the researchers for synthesizing hundreds of compounds, of which one happens to be the answer (which is exactly what methodical chemistry tries to achieve). One story even stretches 'serendipity' to include 'forgetting to test one compound and realizing it months later just before it was thrown out.' If it hadn't been forgotten in the original series of tests, it would have been discovered that much sooner. Still, there are plenty of interesting details and good points about cross-disciplinary investigations. I recommend reading it once.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ice

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Happy Accidents is a fascinating, entertaining, and highly accessible look at the surprising role serendipity has played in some of the most important medical discoveries in the twentieth century. What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, Valium, the Pap smear, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, stumbled upon in the search for something else. In the 1990s, Pfizer had high hopes for a new drug that would boost blood flow to the heart. As they conducted trials Happy Accidents is a fascinating, entertaining, and highly accessible look at the surprising role serendipity has played in some of the most important medical discoveries in the twentieth century. What do penicillin, chemotherapy drugs, X-rays, Valium, the Pap smear, and Viagra have in common? They were each discovered accidentally, stumbled upon in the search for something else. In the 1990s, Pfizer had high hopes for a new drug that would boost blood flow to the heart. As they conducted trials on angina sufferers, researchers noted a startling effect: while the drug did not affect blood flow to the heart, it did affect blood flow elsewhere! Now over six million American men have taken Viagra in their lifetime.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    Got this because Taleb mentioned it in one of his posts and it sounded interesting. The main message is that many medical breakthroughs owe their existence to serendipity and bottom-up tinkering. Fine, I buy that, but the actual meat of the book - various stories of scientists and professionals making their (accidental) discoveries is incredibly dry and shockingly lackluster. I don't expect a non-fiction book to be an epitome of good compelling writing, but c'mon - give your words and sentences Got this because Taleb mentioned it in one of his posts and it sounded interesting. The main message is that many medical breakthroughs owe their existence to serendipity and bottom-up tinkering. Fine, I buy that, but the actual meat of the book - various stories of scientists and professionals making their (accidental) discoveries is incredibly dry and shockingly lackluster. I don't expect a non-fiction book to be an epitome of good compelling writing, but c'mon - give your words and sentences some love. In full disclosure I didn't make it past first 100 pages but I have full confidence that things don't change farther in. For a much better book on a similar subject check out LeFanu https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This was more a long book of information than I-can't-put-it-down-read. At times, it's interesting. At times, it's sort of boring, but it's an eye opening look at how accidents in the medical field can change the course of modern medicine. For example, penicillin was found by accident. The author also shows how the stict environment of medical research, and how big pharma, are leading to less medical breakthroughs and preventing researchers to follow up on those 'flukes' to find cures. This was more a long book of information than I-can't-put-it-down-read. At times, it's interesting. At times, it's sort of boring, but it's an eye opening look at how accidents in the medical field can change the course of modern medicine. For example, penicillin was found by accident. The author also shows how the stict environment of medical research, and how big pharma, are leading to less medical breakthroughs and preventing researchers to follow up on those 'flukes' to find cures.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Devin Partlow

    A book about how serendipity has led to innovation... in medicine. Being the tech entrepreneur I am I see soooo many parallels in how serendipity has led to innovation in technology as well. 3.5 stars because even though the average reader may be overwhelmed by all the technical jargon, the book also included insights into producing serendipity which can be used across many disciplines.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I have a hard time finishing many nonfiction books. This reads like a series of articles, some chapters more interesting than others. But I didn't make it to the end- There doesn't seem to be a point. I have a hard time finishing many nonfiction books. This reads like a series of articles, some chapters more interesting than others. But I didn't make it to the end- There doesn't seem to be a point.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Law

    More than luck Far more than just a compilation of serendipitous science discovery, the stories herein can act as a reflection to how come we seem to be stuck at a lack of medical progress. The answer goes much deeper than pure luck.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alvin

    An interesting book about medical research and discovery.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is the book I wanted to write!

  28. 5 out of 5

    A

    Lots of examples of accidental medical discoveries

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karthik Mahadevan

    Decent read- Some new information. The challenge would be to create an error- proof medical practice that can still allow for serendipitous discovery

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    The introduction is really long winded but the rest of the book is fascinating.

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