BANYAN  Research Express@NCKU
Volume 3 Issue 4 - February 15, 2008
Charles CH Lin
Chance Favors Only the Prepared Mind - an Example in Medicine
Jao-yang Ho
Remarks after Winning the 2007 Outstanding Alumnus Award - Reminiscence and Appreciation
Article Digest
Y. K. Su
Nitride-Based Schottky Barrier Sensor Module With High Electrostatic Discharge Reliability
Ming-Chang Shih
Modeling and Robust Active Control of a Pneumatic Vibration Isolator
Tse-Chuan Chou
Fabricating a Miniaturized Solid-state Reference Electrode for Bio-industry Applications
Shelley Ching-yu Hsieh
A corpus based study on animal expressions in Mandarin Chinese and German
Article Digest
W. M Luh
Approximate sample size formulas for the two-sample trimmed mean test with unequal variances
I-Lin Wang
Fast Heuristics for Designing Integrated E-Waste Reverse Logistics Networks
News Release
Wave Mechanics Guru - Vice President of NCKU Hwung-Hweng Hwung Recognized as Fellow of Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics
Editorial Group
Chance Favors Only the Prepared Mind - an Example in Medicine
Dean Charles CH Lin, College of Medicine

"In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind". This is quoted from a lecture made by a French scientist, Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) at Univ. of Lille, France (December 7, 1854).  The above quote means only those with a prepared mind will be able to come out with new ideas from the observational field. "Occasional phenomenon" provides opportunities for scientific discoveries. Nevertheless, it is up to the researcher’s sensitivity and ability to find out new things or phenomenon and to propose new theories and further verification.

In the summer of 1928, a Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Alexander Fleming was investigating the property of staphylococci before he left for a vacation.  Normally, he would grow the bacteria in a Petri dish for 24 hours under 37℃ incubation.  But, since he was going away for a vacation shortly, he then decided to put the Petri dish on top of a bench.  Upon returning from his trip, he found that the Petri dish got contaminated with fungal moulds.  He noticed that fewer bacterial colonies grew in the zones around the invading whitish fungal moulds (penicillium notatum).  Moreover, he added penicillium notatum broth into the plate furrow cultured with bacteria. He made the same observation as that of the previous experiment. Dr. Fleming then published the results in the "British Journal of Experimental Pathology" in 1929. However, he had a hard time purifying the substance from the mould. Due to its very unstable characteristics, Dr. Fleming finally gave up this project. Fortunately, Drs. Howard Walter Florey and Ernst Boris Chain, after reading Fleming’s paper about the antibacterial effects of Penicillium notatum, came up with the idea of large-scale production and efficient extraction of the active ingredients of the mould which later called penicillin. The new discovery has saved about 200 million people so far. All three of them received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945.

Other researchers would have discarded the contaminated Petri dish immediately. Why only Dr. Fleming came up with the idea of studying the fungus in his contaminated plate? Perhaps he was in a good mood and had a refreshed mind when returning from his vacation! In addition, he had been studying the effects of lysozyme in inhibiting growth of bacteria during that period of time, which might have led him to pick up this "occasional phenomenon" and made him decide to isolate the extract from the mould, which turned out to be penicillin, an antibiotics!

Furthermore, in 1896, a French doctor injected streptococcus into animals and found that if he injected the bacteria together with penicillin, it would decrease the death rates of the animals significantly. It’s a pity that he didn’t do further research. It was likely that he had no idea about the relationship between antibiotics and bacteria.

From the above stories, we can see that the great discoveries in the field of medicine or science sometimes are made by scientists with a prepared mind. However, if they are not capable of necessary knowledge and ability, they will never be able to know what they see and what they get. Therefore, it is very important to develop the ability to perceive things happening around you. You will have to screen for the information you need and reorganize the data in a logical way.  Then, with a strong desire to know more, we will make a hypothesis, collect data, do experiments, link your results with previous studies and finally make a conclusion. Like Pasteur said, "Chance favors only the prepared mind."

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