(in the style of the kids TV show "Make a Wish")
by Ronald Bruce Meyer
13 January 2002

It is rare that we can actually celebrate the anniversary of a word,
but the word serendipity was coined 248 years ago this month!

Serendipity- coined by Horace Walpole in a letter of January 28, 1754,
based on the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip:
as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents
and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of... this discovery,
indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word."

In the 37th year of the witty English author's age,
Horace Walpole coined a term plucked from a fairy tale on-page.
Though his letters ran to thousands, it was one from '54
Coined the word inferred "expressive" -- serendipity, evermore.
It's a word we've used nigh on the last two centuries and a half
To capture the experience and preserve the happy gaffe
Of Three Princes of (a land called by the Persians) Serendip,
Who, through wisdom or dumb luck, found things not sought out on their trip:
What we know now as Sri Lanka or Ceylon became the word;
For accidental discovery, serendipity is preferred.

While most maintain that meaning, some use marginal mutations,
Such as Serendipity Books, one of Putnam's publications,
And the short-and-spicy stories penned by women with aplomb
That arouse at
Although the African fruit, Dioscoreo cumminsii,
Or serendipity berry, was found without a "try."
The Cusak-Beckinsale love story hangs on luck and wit,
In a film called Serendipity, that chanced to be a hit.
You could yearn for such bon chance, indeed, to turn your life around,
Though I'm afraid such serendipity's all too rarely found.

But make a wish... it might come true.
It's up to you... it's up to you!

Though scientists will limit sloppiness as they are able --
(It's not as bad as saying "oops!" at the operating table!) --
There is a grand tradition of advancement fundamental
In which the field is furthered by discovery accidental.
The Serendipity Factor can be found in medical science.
It can turn the obscure but lucky into scientific giants.
You've heard how Alexander Fleming's tainted sample grew
Into pure "penicillin," and the infections that it slew.
It was Dr. Papanicolaou, and his lucky observations,
Of cancer cells in vaginal fluid making generations,
Gave women cancer testing, which, applied from year to year,
Could detect affected uterus or cervix by "Pap smear."

A chance-on-chance discovery of what the pancreas is secreting
Led Canadians Banting and MacLeod to build -- without repeating
On work von Mering and Minkowski attempted to begin--
They isolated diabetic control in "insulin."
When Roentgen noticed phosphorescent ghosts on film exposed
From cathodes shining through a shield he thought was tightly closed
He'd stumbled on a diagnostic tool he called "x-rays."
The first Nobel became his accidental prize and praise.
The Serendipity Factor tends to favor well trained minds,
So luck without some preparation saves too few behinds.

But make a wish... it might come true.
It's up to you... it's up to you!

The process whereby rubber can be shaped to form a grip
Was not experimental, but an accidental drip.
A drop of India rubber mixed with sulfur once was fried
On a stove so hot it "vulcanized" and strengthened as it dried.
The process made millions for the industry based on it,
Though, sad to say, Charles Goodyear made a paltry little bit.
It was lucky Juan de Bermudez chanced upon the Atlantic coast
Of the islands called Bermuda, where vacationers raise a toast.
And taking pictures over time revealed a celestial motion
Which chanced upon the place of Pluto's planetarial commotion.

The healing arts progress on chance encounter, leap and bound,
Take, for example, how the cure for malaria was found.
A South American Indian once was sick with the disease,
And quenched his thirst with bitter water pooled beneath some trees
Whose quina-quina bark was thought a poison to ingest.
This Andean man drank deeply, but recovered to his best.
It seems the bark of this cinchona tree took out the bite,
By means of "quinine," of malarial fever, overnight!
The first true vaccination was, in 1796,
An Edward Jenner brainstorm put in action for a fix.
From a chance word by a milkmaid, who saw cowpox victims thrive,
He found the cure for smallpox that's left many since alive.
But hence some 80 years it was by chance Louis Pasteur
Inoculated chickens and for cholera found a cure.
He was a chemist, not a doctor, by his calculation,
But his medical serendipity gave us the "vaccination."
It was scientific method laced with luck discovered germs,
And with such luck keeps you and me from sleeping with the worms.

So make a wish... it might come true.
It's up to you... it's up to you!

--Uptight, Late-Night, Stage Fright Ronald, The Duke of Doggerel

Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance doggerelist.