This paper explores the genesis of D.L. Davie's 1962 paper on 'Normal drinking in recovered alcohol addicts' in terms of the background and training of its author and the institutional context within which he worked. Davies was born in 1911 and died in 1982. Alter a brilliant undergraduate medical career and war service in command of a military hospital, Davies joined the staff of the Maudsley Hospital in 1946 and was exposed to the intellectual influence of Aubrey Lewis. The research tradition to which he was introduced emphasised case description. The 1962 paper radically challenged perceived wisdom by purporting to describe 7 'alcohol addicts' who had achieved sustained, controlled drinking over a 7-11 year period. A subsequent follow-up of these cases suggested that Davies had been substantially mislead, and the paradox exists that a widely influential paper which did much to stimulate new thinking was based on faulty data. Some possible explanations for the occurrence of such a scientific accident are considered and the relevance of this story for the present day.