“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
greatest discovery as a scientist began with a mistake.
in the lab had proved futile, and I had just lost another day's work because of
a careless mistake: I used the wrong
stopper to seal the flask. Overnight the
internal pressure shot the stopper clear across the room, allowing oxygen to
rush into the vessel and transform what should have been a clear liquid into a
wanted to toss it. I have always been a
perfectionist and have trouble facing my failures. I wanted to rid myself of this mistake, push it
out of my mind and begin again.
for some reason I stayed my hand, and against my better judgment took a small
sample for analysis. And eureka! Buried in that tar were tiny amounts of the
material I desired, one that had never before existed until this moment!
error had allowed the boiling mixture to concentrate, giving me the clue I
needed to finally synthesize this material.
If I had not looked more carefully at this "failure," it would have
taken me much longer to make this discovery, if I even made it at all.
life, I will continue to make mistakes.
I will no longer see them as errors, but as experiments.
— Sandy Ottensmann
Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver.
We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Concept and photography:
Tony Deifell, MBA '02
More Portrait Project
Harvard Business SchoolDillon HouseSoldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163