Serendipity and Epiphany in Scientific Discovery


Past Event

Serendipity and Epiphany in Scientific Discovery

September 9, 2022
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Fayerweather Hall, 1180 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027 513

While research, discovery and knowledge arrive as the outcomes of social structures intended for these purposes, many researchers observe that a significant proportion of their discoveries, ideas and achievements are the direct or indirect result of a series of chance events and encounters that occur outside of any describable formal structure. As expressed by Paul Feyerabend in 1975, the maxim "Anything goes" is not a prescriptive exhortation but rather a simple factual observation -- with ample evidentiary support -- of the way science often proceeds.

This mini-conference explores the concepts of 'serendipity' and 'epiphany' within scientific research through an open discourse with a group of scholars from Columbia University and beyond. A group of sympathetic and interested researchers will gather to discuss and present stories, ideas, and explorations that may lead to a wider conversation around these topics. Importantly, a goal for this mini-conference is not to instrumentalize the concepts of serendipity and epiphany, but rather to simply think about them and the conditions that allow them to flourish.

Event Speakers

  • Amanda Althoff, PhD student in Anthropology at Columbia University
  • Jeffrey L. Benjamin, PhD student in Anthropology at Columbia University 
  • Edward R. Cook, Ewing Lamont Research Professor at Columbia University
  • Marko Marila, Postdoctoral Researcher in Cultural Production and Landscape Studies at the University of Turku
  • Madeline Muntersbjorn, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toledo
  • Dorothy Peteet, Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University
  • Scott W. Schwartz, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at City College of New York

Event Information

Free and open to Columbia University ID holders. Registration is required. Interested guests from other universities and research institutions, should email Jeff Benjamin at [email protected] to request attendance. All guests must comply with Columbia University COVID-19 guidelines

Hosted by the Center for Science and Society and supported by a 2019 Seed Grant

The Center for Science and Society makes every reasonable effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend a Center for Science and Society event, please contact us at [email protected] or (212) 854-0666 at least 10 days in advance of the event. For more information, please visit the campus accessibility webpage.

Contact Information

Jeff Benjamin