Merton, the leading sociologist of science before his death in 2003 at age 91, defined "serendipity" as "the fairly common experience of observing an unanticipated, anomalous, and strategic datum which becomes the occasion for developing a new or extending an existing theory" (p. 260). However, in spite of such sentences, the book isn’t simply a textbook of sociology; it is much more. It is the story of a word, its origin, its diffusion across cultures and disciplines, the evolution of its meaning, its recognition by dictionaries and their impact on its development, its enthusiastic adoption by scientists and students of science (such as Merton himself), and its emergence as a concept applied to scientists such as Roentgen, Fleming, Watson and Crick, Thomas Kuhn, and others. It is also a delightful collection of mini-essays on subjects that turn up along the way (serendipitously?), ranging from the difference between early and late Victorian culture through F.D.R.’s bank holiday to the history of dictionaries. Perhaps most of all, it is an opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation that extends across centuries and involves participants such as Horace Walpole (who coined the term), Louis Pasteur, Walter Cannon, and Robert Merton himself.