“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” Psalm 139:13
What does iodine, velcro, the Dead Sea Scrolls, safety glass and X rays have in common? Now don’t give up too quickly. Here’s a clue. Penicillin, dynamite, the West Indies, vulcanization, and substitute sugar also have something in common with the items already mentioned. The answer – these diverse things were all discovered by accident.
The cure for malaria was also discovered by accident. An old legend tells of an Indian who, burning with fever and stumbling through the trees in the high jungle of the Andes, found a stagnant pool of bitter water which he drank deeply to quench his burning thirst. As he drank the water, he realized it was tainted with the bark of the cinchona tree (called quina-quina by the Indians). The tree was thought to be poisonous but the Indian was more concerned about getting some kind of relief for his fever than for the possible deadly aftereffects. To his surprise, he didn’t die; in fact the fever dissipated and he made it back to his village with renewed strength. When friends and relatives heard his story, they began to use extracts from the bark of the quina-quina tree to cure further outbreaks of malaria.
By the early seventeenth century news of this discovery had reached Jesuit missionaries in Lima and they named the bark “Jesuit bark.” In 1820 the active antimalarial substance in the bark was isolated as quinine by the French chemists Pierre Pelletier and Joseph Caventou.
Archimedes accidentally discovered how to measure the volume of an irregular object in the public baths in Syracuse in the third century B. C. As he stepped into a bath of water and saw water running over the top of the bath he realized that the volume of the overflowing water was exactly equal to the bulk of his body placed in the water. He was so excited with his discovery he leapt out of the baths, forgot to put on his clothes, and dashed home naked shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!”
Jenner’s accidental discovery of a vaccine for smallpox occurred after seeing cowpox scars on a milkmaid’s hands. Luigi Galvani observed a frog leg hanging from an iron railing by a brass hook and how it contracted when it came in contact with another part of the railing. Galvani’s accidental discovery later led to an understanding of electromagnetism.
I could tell you about hundreds of other things which have been discovered by accident. But here’s today’s clincher – you weren’t one of them. You didn’t happen along by chance. There’s not a single living human being who was ever an accident, certainly not in God’s economy. In Psalm 139:13-16 we read; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”