Pek van Andel on Anatomy of the Unsought Finding, Serendipity


May 19, 2017 - 14:00
Seminar Event



Title: Anatomy of the Unsought Finding. Serendipity: Origin, History, Domains, Traditions, Appearances, Patterns and Programmability

Speaker: Pek van Andel

Summary: Serendipity is an unsought finding or the art making an unsought finding. The word was coined by British Walpole in 1754. The term was first only used in literary circles. Cannon introduced the term in the experimental sciences in 1945. Merton did this in behavioral sciences. Serendipity starts with a surprising observation followed by a correct explanation. The trigger is a riddle, an anomaly, or a novelty. The unsought finding can be a discovery (in science), an invention (in technique), or a creation (in art). Serendipity and systematic research do not exclude, but complement and even reinforce each other.


Date/Time: 19 May 2017 14:00-15:00

Location: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – Main Building, Room HG-01A33, 1081 HV Amsterdam


Speaker: Pek van Andel <> (University Medical Center Groningen)

About the speaker: Menko Victor (Pek) van Andel known as a ‘serendipitiologist’ got his university degree in medical research in Groningen, where he developed, with the internationally known and inventive ophthalmologist Jan Worst, among other things, an artificial cornea for the ten million cornea blind in the world. In 2000 he won the satiric Ig-Nobel Prize for medicine – for ‘improbable research’: research that makes people laugh and then think – for the iconoclastic and classic MRI-scans of the human love act, published in the British Medical Journal (1999, 319, 1596-1600) and inspired in 1991 by fMRI-scans of a singing human larynx. Pek was one the first researchers who tried to study and extract serendipity patterns for accidental unsought knowledge discovery. He has an influential paper about the Anatomy of the Unsought Finding[1] in the British journal for the philosophy of science. He has also recently given a TEDx talk [2] about that topic.