The Accidental Scientist: The Role of Chance and Luck in Scientific Discovery

by Graeme Donald

The world of science is indeed filled with many stories bustling with serendipity…as such. I was quite excited about reading this book and it makes for a quite interesting read. I use that phrase intentionally because it is written almost as the sort of mini stories told on the excellent QI, which happens to be one of my favorite series of all times. The book cover is quite whimsical, lightbulbs and pens and chemistry flasks.

I anticipated something interested and perhaps mischievous or eccentric judging by the cover art which appears almost as children oriented.  Unquestionably, I got plenty of interesting stories. I did make a mistake though, which was binging the entire book over a couple of train rides. Here’s the thing…The history of science gets dark. Really dark. It gets monstrously opaque and is less whimsical and more devastatingly brutal, filled with treacherous avarice driven by capricious humans. About half-way through the book, I had to stop and simply try to remember that there is good to be found in humanity. I got several questioning looks from onlookers on the train whilst sporting expressions of the utmost dread and dire as I read from what appeared to be a happy-go-lucky, yellow-coated book of scientific adventures.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is super interesting and presented in bite-sized and terribly compelling stories. But don’t be misled by the cover art. You can expect stories on mutilation, deformed newborns, Nazi experimentation, atrocious lobotomies (this chapter was particularly harrowing) and usually some sorts of corporate coverups to elude accountability to make some more of that sweet, sweet money. You can also expect any positive opinions you may have of Charles Darwin (and others) to be completely eviscerated.

My advice. Read it, but bit by bit rather than all at once. Just be prepared for the horrors coming your way dressed in yellow playfulness.

Rating 80/100

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