Foundations of Science 19 (4):387-401 (2014)

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This paper presents the manner in which the DNA, the molecule of life, was discovered. Unlike what many people, even biologists, believe, it was Johannes Friedrich Miescher who originally discovered and isolated nuclein, currently known as DNA, in 1869, 75 years before Watson and Crick unveiled its structure. Also, in this paper we show, and above all demonstrate, the serendipity of this major discovery. Like many of his contemporaries, Miescher set out to discover how cells worked by means of studying and analysing their proteins. During this arduous task, he detected an unexpected substance of unpredicted properties. This new substance precipitated when he added acid to the solution and it dissolved again when adding alkali. Unexpectedly and by a mere fluke, Miescher was the first person to obtain a DNA precipitate. The paper then presents the term serendipity and discusses how it has influenced the discovery of other important scientific milestones. Finally, we address the question of whether serendipitous discoveries can be nurtured and what role the computer could play in this process
Keywords Computational serendipity  DNA  Miescher  Nuclein  Serendipity
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DOI 10.1007/s10699-014-9348-0
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Serendipity as a Source of Evolutionary Progress in Science.Aharon Kantorovich - 1989 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 20 (4):505.

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