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Paperback | $24.95 Trade | £19.95 | 267 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 13 illus. | August 2003 | ISBN: 9780262511353
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Chase, Chance, and Creativity

The Lucky Art of Novelty


This first book by the author of Zen and the Brain examines the role of chance in the creative process. James Austin tells a personal story of the ways in which persistence, chance, and creativity interact in biomedical research; the conclusions he reaches shed light on the creative process in any field. Austin shows how, in his own investigations, unpredictable events shaped the outcome of his research and brought about novel results. He then goes beyond this story of serendipity to propose a new classification of the varieties of chance, drawing on his own research and examples from the history of science--including the famous accidents that led Fleming to the discovery of penicillin. Finally, he explores the nature of the creative process, considering not only the environmental and neurophysiological correlates of creativity but also the role of intuition in both scientific discoveries and spiritual quests. This updated MIT Press paperback edition includes a new introduction and recent material on medical research, creativity, and spirituality.

About the Author

James H. Austin, a clinical neurologist, researcher, and Zen practitioner for more than three decades, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Courtesy Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is the author of Zen and the Brain, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, Zen-Brain Reflections, Selfless Insight,Meditating Selflessly,and Zen-Brain Horizons, all published by the MIT Press. For more information, please visit


“A fascinating look at creativity from the inside.”—Library Journal
“Anyone engaged in any kind of original work will find the book rewarding.”—Anthony Storr, Washington Post


“The brain is the organ of creativity, but the means by which the brain performs these glorious acts is still poorly understood. In Chase, Chance, and Creativity James Austin combines his own creative experience with an extensive knowledge of neuroscience, and starts us on the path to illumination.”
Kenneth Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine