The Ingenious Fortuity of Accidents

Sometimes accidents happen and we're better off because they do. Historical accounts of many important discoveries and inventions tell of fortuitous accidents. A surprising number of these are associated with stories about spillage, breakage and other unintended actions that led to valuable, though unexpected, outcomes.

Probably the most famous is Alexander Fleming's discovery of the antibiotic properties of penicillin. Fleming accidentally left a dish of Staphylococcus bacteria uncovered for a few days and returned to find the dish dotted with bacterial growth, except in one area where a patch of mold (Penicillium notatum) was growing. Fleming himself said of this event, "I did not ask for a spore of Penicillium notatum to drop on my culture plate. When I saw certain changes, I had not the slightest suspicion that I was at the beginning of something extraordinary. That same mold might have dropped on any one of my culture plates, and there would have been no visible change to direct special attention to it."

Similarly, Louis Daguerre, who invented photography, made his breakthrough when he put an exposed plate into a cabinet in which a thermometer had earlier shattered; mercury vapors from the broken thermometer developed the photographic image unexpectedly.

While it is not penicillin and cannot cure a disease, in my opinion, it is the perfect brilliance of an accident.


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Bonnie Morét is an award-winning photographer recognized by The Georgia Council of the Arts as "an exceptional representation of contemporary Georgia art work." Her photography is featured on Georgia Public Broadcast's Georgia Traveler. Her exhibitions include Fifth Annual Exposure Awards at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France, Art Takes Miami at Scope Art during Art Basel Miami, Metro Montage XIII at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, World of Water at the Georgia Aquarium, Open Walls at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Wholly Georgia: A Look at the Effects of Southern Religious Culture, sponsored by the Art History League and Georgia State University, at Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, 6x6 at the Rochester Contemporary Arts Center in Rochester, New York, @Phonography: Dialogue in the Wireless Age, at 3 Ring Circus in New Orleans, Louisiana, and About Lands and Lives of the Civil War at the 6th Cavalry Museum in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. Her photography appears in Modern Luxury/The Atlantan, Jezebel Magazine, and hangs in the executive offices at the Georgia State Capitol as part of the Art of Georgia exhibit. Corporate clients include Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta History Center, Chanel Cosmetics, Christian Dior Cosmetics, Sharp Mountain Vineyards, PM Realty Group, Granite Properties, Road Atlanta, Patrón Tequila, StubHub, CBM Records and The Washington Auto Show.