Scientific Anthology: Accidental Discoveries

Introduction

Throughout history many people have stumbled upon a discovery accidentally. Some examples of these accidental discoveries occur when someone is working on an experiment and it results in a completely different outcome then expected. No matter how these discoveries were made, there has been several significant discoveries that happened accidentally in history. These accidental discoveries may produce a physical product, but it also allows people to keep an open mind in their experiments, not knowing what the outcome may be. It is interesting to look at these accidental discoveries and see how one experiment can turn into something completely different. In this anthology, you will find a collection of examples of accidental discoveries. These examples were selected because we believe they have had a significant impact in the world.
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Scientific Anthology: Accidental Discoveries

Patent Culture: Good or Bad? Or both?

“Reimers administered a patenting and licensing program that actively solicited faculty inventions for patenting in a manner new to academia. He read the Times article and immediately called Cohen to discuss a possible patent application. The suggestion caught Cohen by surprise. Despite his recognition of the invention’s potential practicality, his reaction was to question whether one could or should patent basic research findings. At the time, biomedical scientists in American universities were seldom preoccupied with patenting and intellectual property protection, even at a university as entrepreneurial as Stanford” (21).

In this quote, Cohen questions whether one could or should patent basic research findings, especially those that involve useful and general health information. Insulin and growth hormone are both crucial to development and survival, more so insulin, so why should there be any monopoly on this research. Cohen clearly was not motivated or incentivized by patent or intellectual property protection to conduct and follow through on his research. Moreover, his effort put into the field does not come from a selfish place of profit-seeking legal protection. After all this is academia where research is one of the main reasons for one’s craft, so one does have to enjoy this line of work in the first place. Granted, this was in the 1970s where particular pharmaceutical patents, notable ones born from academia, were not seen as outlets for patent-based incentives. Has this culture changed? When in the realm of crucial health research, are patents the first step to legitimizing research? Obviously this is the case because patents are seen as more necessary in this industry. Patents are not as much incentives as they are confirmations, or so it seems.

Patent Culture: Good or Bad? Or both?

Results of Competition

In Where Good Ideas Come From we learned of the power of competition, especially when patenting was involved. To counter that idea, Johnson also discussed the necessity of team work and the fourth quadrant. In Pointing from the Grave, Helena discusses how competition got the better of her company.

“Syva had poured more money than it could afford into a new, automated drug-testing machine. If it worked, it would have dominated the field. But there were technical hitches and Abbott, Syva’s main competitor, got their product out first. It was a disaster for Syva- they were forced to lay off hundreds of staff and cancel future projects” (Weinberg 17)

It is interesting to see the theories come to life. It can only be a matter of days for a competitor to beat out its competition. I can see why patents can be essential because they can protect inventions and the employees who worked on a project.

Results of Competition

Idea Spill Over

Double-entry accounting made it far easier to keep track of what you owned, but no one owned double-entry accounting itself. The idea was too powerful not to spill over into other nearby minds (Johnson 57).

I found this point from chapter 2 to be the most interesting, mostly because I have never thought of an idea spilling over. I usually think of an idea as something one person thinks of and is able to patent. This is also the first time of thinking of how powerful an idea is, and what this means for the magnitude of people that it will “spill over” into and effect.

Idea Spill Over

Patented Drugs

The price of patented drugs, however, is often artificially inflated due to the monopoly, putting them out of reach of many people and increasing health insurance costs (Johnson, 207).

Before reading this chapter, I had no idea that this happened and was very surprised to discover that it does. Although these patented drugs have the potential to benefit so many, they are out of reach for most people financially. I understand why people could have ethical issues with this. Maintaining a healthy life should not come at an inflated price. Personally, I find it unfair for the individuals and families who may need these drugs but cannot afford them.

Patented Drugs