Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the shoulders of giants

I recently looked up the quote often attributed to Isaac Newton "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton did say this phrase, but I never knew that he did not coin it. It had been around for hundreds of years before Newton was born. And little did I know that the phrase originally was "dwarves on the shoulders of giants"!

According to Wikipedia, the earliest recorded use of the phrase was by Bernard of Chartres, "Bernard of Chartres used to say that we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants."

I like the way that Isaiah di Trani puts it: "Who sees further a dwarf or a giant? Surely a giant for his eyes are situated at a higher level than those of the dwarf. But if the dwarf is placed on the shoulders of the giant who sees further? ... So too we are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due to their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they." 

I love the imagery that comes to mind with this quote - and how I hope for Maddy that she will have many "giant shoulders" to stand on!! 

1 comment:

  1. I love this
    Jesus said a couple of times "The servant is not greater than his lord" , but he also said
    "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do"

    I think we are dwarfs standing on giant shoulders