April 9, 2010 9:15 PM Subscribe
Nothing succeeds like failure. [H]istory shows that breakthroughs often spring not from carefully laid plans, but from mischance or even sheer, ridiculous accidents. A stovetop spill heralded vulcanized rubber; the potency of uranium was revealed when a rock was left in a drawer among photographic plates. And great research seldom follows an unswerving path. At RCA in Princeton in the 1950s, David Sarnoff exhorted his team to invent a flat television that could hang on a wall. “There were an enormous number of failures,” says Princeton historian of science Michael Gordin — and instead of TVs, the world got the Seiko digital watch in 1973.
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