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Eight Accidental Discoveries: Science Analysis

2303 words - 9 pages

It is amazing how many scientific discoveries were accidental. The history of science is packed with accidental discoveries (Peters, 1999, para. 4). Science is the “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2014). Accidental is defined as “happening in a way that is not planned or intended” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2014). Discovery is “the act of finding or learning something for the first time” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2014). In 1754, Horace Walpole, an English author, coined the term serendipity to mean “[t]he faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident” (Farlex, Inc., 2014). Since then the term serendipity has been used many times to describe accidental discoveries. Accidental discoveries in science play a role in adding to the learning process from one discovery to the next discovery like building blocks. In many cases they led to awesome advances in medicine. Accidental discoveries have led to the advancement of scientific knowledge worldwide.
Here are eight accidental discoveries that played significant roles in the history of science. A British surgeon and scientist named Edward Jenner, had heard that a person who contracted cowpox did not get the smallpox disease. In 1796, he experimented with applying samples from cowpox sores to a boy who had not had smallpox (Krock, 2001, para. 7). The child was sick for a few days and was well again shortly (Krock, 2001). A couple months later Jenner inoculated the boy with the smallpox virus (Krock, 2001). The boy did not contract smallpox which led to the development of the first vaccine and the science of immunity (Krock, 2001). Although the medical and scientific worlds “would not begin to understand the biological basis of immunity for at least 50 years after Jenner's first inoculation, the technique of vaccinating against smallpox using the human strain of cowpox soon became” the worldwide standard practice (Krock, 2001, para. 8). I have personally benefited from Jenner’s discovery having been vaccinated to prevent many diseases.
Another accidental discovery was anesthesia by a Connecticut dentist named Horace Wells in 1844 (Zengerle, 2008, p. 21). Anesthesia is the “loss of sensation and usually of consciousness without loss of vital functions artificially produced by the administration of one or more agents that block the passage of pain impulses along nerve pathways to the brain” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2014). Wells witnessed a medical student, Gardner Quincy Colton, giving nitrous oxide, which we know as laughing gas, to a man that afterward, ran around and ended up hitting his leg making it bleed but he did not feel any pain (Zengerle, 2008). The following day, Wells needed to have his wisdom tooth extracted and he asked Colton give him nitrous oxide (Zengerle, 2008). Wells did not feel any pain while his colleagues removed the tooth (Zengerle, 2008). Wells began...

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