Serendipity

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You don't reach Serendib by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings… serendipitously. ~ John Barth

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated.

See also:
Coincidence
Kenosis
Synchronicity

Quotes[edit]

Life does not allow itself to be reduced to serial explanation made of inferences, but comes to light through our intuitions and, sometimes, for the most sensitive and subtle of us, in an act of serendipity. ~ Pek van Andel
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny." ~ Isaac Asimov
Serendipity is when you find things you weren't looking for because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult. ~ Erin McKean
In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind. ~ Louis Pasteur
  • I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.
  • Journeys are the mark of confidence of those who embrace life. This one is an affair of History and, therefore, can only be told as a story. Therefore it would be vain to explain it mathematically, reducing it to an infinite number of points in an infinitesimal space which is always too narrow. History does not lend itself to such explanations. It only lets itself be told as a never-ending story. Likewise, and for the very same reason, Life does not allow itself to be reduced to serial explanation made of inferences, but comes to light through our intuitions and, sometimes, for the most sensitive and subtle of us, in an act of serendipity.
    • Pek van Andel, in a 1994 statement, as quoted in Constructal Theory of Social Dynamics (2007) by Adrian Bejan and Gilbert W. Merkx, p. 315
  • The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny."
    • Isaac Asimov, as quoted in Becoming a Behavioral Science Researcher : A Guide to Producing Research That Matters (2008) by Rex B. Kline, p. 236
  • Sindbad the Sailor had no quarrel with the caliph's project, though he'd never before set sail with any motive nobler than restless greed. As he knew from hard experience, however — and will presently declare to his dinner guests, at the end of their monthlong fast — you don't reach Serendib by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings… serendipitously.
    • John Barth, in The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (1992)
  • Serendipity is the way to make discoveries, by accident but also by sagacity, of things one is not in quest of. Based on experience, knowledge, it is the creative exploitation of the unforeseen.
  • Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you've found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.
    • Lawrence Block, as quoted in Silver Linings : Meditations on Finding Joy and Beauty in Unexpected Places (2008) by Mina Parker and Daniel Talbott
  • Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer's daughter.
    • Julius Comroe, Jr., as quoted in What Does That Mean? : Exploring Mind, Meaning, and Mysteries (2010) by Eldon Taylor, p. 9
  • It is true that my discovery of LSD was a chance discovery, but it was the outcome of planned experiments and these experiments took place in the framework of systematic pharmaceutical, chemical research. It could better be described as serendipity.
    • Albert Hofmann, as quoted in Under the Influence : The Disinformation Guide to Drugs (2004) by Preston Peet, p. 284
  • We owe to an eighteenth century Persian poet the marvelous concept of "serendipity." It is a word born in the delightful Persian tale entitled "The Three Princes of Serendip." Webster's Dictionary defines "serendipity" as the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable things not sought for." It represense a tye of "accidental sagacity; the faculty of making fortunate discoveries of things you were not looking for."
    • James J. Lynch, in ‪A Cry Unheard: New Insights Into The Medical Consequences Of Loneliness‎‬ (2000), p. 198
  • Serendipity is when you find things you weren't looking for because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult.
    • Erin McKean, as quoted in Search Patterns : Design for Discovery (2010) by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender, p. 131
  • In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.
    • Peter McWilliams, as quoted in Va-Va-Voodoo! : Find Love, Make Love & Keep Love (2007) by Kathleen Charlotte and Ross Heaven, p. 33
  • In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind.
    • Louis Pasteur, in a lecture at the University of Lille (7 December 1854)
  • Serendipity is putting a quarter in the gumball machine and having three pieces come rattling out instead of one — all red.
  • I must tell you a critical discovery of mine àpropos: in an old book of Venetian arms, there are two coats of Capello, who from their name bear a hat; on one of them is added a fleur-de-lis on a blue ball, which I am persuaded was given to the family by the Great Duke, in consideration of this alliance; the Medicis, you know, bore such a badge at the top of their own arms. This discovery I made by a talisman, which Mr. Chute calls the Sortes Walpolianæ, by which I find every thing I want, à pointe nommee, whenever I dip for it. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which, as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavour to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called "The Three Princes of Serendip;" as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right — now do you understand Serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity, (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description,) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who, happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon's, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table. I will send you the inscription in my next letter; you see I endeavour to grace your present as it deserves.
    • Horace Walpole, in the first recorded use of the word Serendipity, in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann (28 January 1754), published in The Letters of Horace Walpole : Earl of Orford, Vol. II (1842) edited by John Wright

External links[edit]

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