From More Intelligent Life, the origins of the word ‘serendipity’:
The word that best describes this subtle blend of chance and agency is “serendipity”. It was coined by Horace Walpole, man of letters and aristocratic dilettante. Writing to a friend in 1754, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had just made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of…now do you understand Serendipity?”
I hesitate to recommend the rest of the article, though, as it quickly devolves into a (mannered) rant against the world wide web.The ability to make rapid connections between Q and A is “amazingly good,” writes Ian Leslie, but “a side-effect of this awesome efficiency may be a shrinking, rather than an expansion, of our horizons, because we are less likely to come across things we are not in quest of.”
In my experience writing (and, first, researching and more researching) this blog, the internet is an incredible generator of serendipity; indeed, I can’t ‘quest’ after anything without running smack into the unexpected along the way, most recently in the form of this . . .
. . . image: Horace Walpole’s architectural history-altering villa, Strawberry Hill.