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The Unlikely Chance Encounters That Shaped the World

 Often we wonder, ‘What would happen if...’ What would happen if your family never moved to a different state in your childhood? What if you ended up choosing a different career? We have all made decisions that lead to events and encounters that eventually shaped our lives. And naturally, so do famous figures. Their chance encounters, however, ended up not only changing their personal lives but the entire course of history. Check out some of the most random historical meetings that resulted in the world as we know it today.

1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Chance Meetings That Changed History, Elizabeth Cady Stnaton and Susan B. Anthony

The suffrage movement would have looked a lot different had Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony not meet on a street corner in 1851. Each woman was involved in activism on her own right before their meeting, but together they became an unstoppable force, Anthony as an on-the-ground organizer, and Stanton as a writer, thinker, and commentator. 

The meeting occurred when Anthony traveled to Seneca Falls, New York, to attend an antislavery meeting, where Stanton had organized the first national woman’s rights convention in 1848, as a reaction to being denied a seat at the World’s Anti Slavery Convention because of her gender. Interestingly, Anthony also turned her sight towards suffrage after being unable to speak at a temperance convention.

Despite their similarities, the two women met completely by accident. Anthony traveled to Seneca Falls with Amelia Bloomer, a mutual friend, and she introduced her to Stanton when they ran into her on the street. Stanton and Anthony immediately took a liking to each other and formed a lifelong friendship. Because Stanton was a busy wife and mother, she needed someone to be the voice of the suffrage movement and to deliver her speeches on the road. Anthony was perfect for the role. Together, the duo launched a suffrage newspaper called The Revolution, founded the National American Women Suffrage Association, and more, all thanks to that fateful street corner meeting. 

Related: 15 Deep and Beautiful Quotes By Women’s Rights Advocates

2. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Elizabeth Cady Stnaton and Susan B. Anthony, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

You’d think the couple that pretty much embodies the roaring 20s would meet in a more typical fashion, like being introduced by some famous author friends. But the truth is that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Syre met in a much more ordinary and coincidental way - at a dance. In fact, it was a dance F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t even supposed to attend. In July 1918, the aspiring author was stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, awaiting orders to fight overseas in World War I. To pass the time and blow off some steam he decided to attend a nearby country club dance. 

At 18, Zelda Syre was already a prominent figure in Montgomery's social circles. She completely charmed Fitzgerald at the dance, but despite his claim that he was on the verge of literary fame, Zelda doubted his financial prospects and rejected him at first. Still, Fitzgerald pursued her fiercely for two years, and she finally agreed to marry him in 1920 after his first novel 'This Side of Paradise' was picked up by a major publishing house.

Although their marriage is notorious for being tumultuous, the two greatly inspired each other’s literary careers. The famous line 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool,' said by Daisy Buchanan in 'The Great Gatsby', was actually taken from Zelda’s personal diary. 

Related: What You Know Of These Historical Figures Is Probably Wrong

3. Larry Page and Sergey Brin

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Larry Page and Sergey Brin

The foundation of Google, an invention that undoubtedly changed all of our lives, was the result of a chance encounter between founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In 1995 Brin, then a second-year grad student in computer science, volunteered to be a tour guide for prospective students at Stanford University. Among them was Page. It’s hard to say it was love at first sight. The two even recalled finding each other obnoxious. "But we say it a little bit jokingly. Obviously we spent a lot of time talking to each other, so there was something there,” Brin told Wired.

Several months later, Page’s dissertation on the World Wide Web turned into a much bigger project, involving a prototype search engine, originally named BackRub. But he needed someone to help him build the system, and so he teamed up with his former tour guide, who also happened to be a prodigious mathematician. The rest, as they say, is history. 

4. Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Chance Meetings That Changed History, Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Image Source: John Beagle / Flickr

On July 6, 1957, in the midst of a heavy heatwave then gripping Northern England (and all of Europe), 15-year-old Paul McCartney decided to attend the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete. It wasn’t because he was an especially active church member, but rather in the hopes to meet girls at the event. He may have not met any girls, but he did happen to hear a high school band named The Quarrymen performing. McCartney was immediately impressed by their sound, and after the show, he asked a mutual friend to introduce him to the band’s lead singer, John Lennon.

You might think the two Liverpool teenagers would have probably met on some other occasion. But as much as they had in common, the two boys lived in different neighborhoods, went to different schools, and were nearly two years apart in age. McCartney also happened to have his guitar with him at the fair, and he managed to impress 17-year-old Lennon greatly with his skills. The latter invited him to join the band, and half of the Beatles was born.

5. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford

Chance Meetings That Changed History, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford

Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s personal hero, but he never dreamed the two would end up being close friends. In 1896, Henry Ford attended the convention of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies in New York. Naturally, Edison himself was also at the event, going around and greeting the guests. Ford and Edison had a brief conversation about the recently invented quadricycle, the first automobile ever designed by Ford. Legend has it that Edison, fascinated by Ford's ingenuity, told him: “You have the thing. Keep at it.”

Edison was known to be a guarded and closed-off man, and after becoming famous it was even harder for him to connect with people. 12 years after that first inspirational meeting, Ford introduced the Model T Car and became a famous inventor in his own right. Edison then felt he could let his guard down, as he was sure Ford didn’t need anything from him. In fact, later on, it was Ford who funded many of Edison’s projects. The two became so close over the years, that they started vacationing together, along with their families. Their deep friendship lasted until the end of their lives.

Related: These 6 Royals Chose a Path Outside the Palace

6. Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward VIII

Chance Meetings That Changed History, Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward VIII
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most scandalous relationships the history of Great Britain was set off at an ordinary weekend getaway. During the 1920s, Wallis Simpson was an American expat living in London with her then-husband Ernest, happily rubbing elbows with the elite of British society. The two rose through the ranks quickly, and in 1931 they were invited to an exclusive hunting weekend at their friend Lady Thelma Furness’s home.

Furness herself was involved with Prince Edward VIII at the time, and he was on the guest list on the weekend gathering, too. The first encounter between Wallis and the prince wasn’t in fact all that passionate. The two had a dull conversation on central heating and allegedly Wallis called him out on being... boring. Although this was a social crime of the highest degree, Edward (who loved all things modern and American) was enchanted by how feisty and daring Wallis was. So much so, that he eventually abdicated the throne for her. 

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