Quote of the moment: “Shoulders of giants” (February 15)


February 15th is Shoulders of Giants Day (unless you’re still on the Julian calendar).

Or should be.  See this mostly encore post:

Famous quotations often get cited to the wrong famous person. ‘Somebody said something about standing on the shoulders of giants — who was it? Edison? Lincoln? Einstein? Jefferson?’  It may be possible someday to use Google or a similar service to track down the misquotes.

The inspiration, perhaps

Robert Burton, author of "Anatomy of Melancholy"

Robert Burton, melancholy scholar at Oxford

A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.

Robert Burton (February 8, 1577-January 25, 1640), vicar of Oxford University, who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy to ward off his own depressions

The famous quote

Sir Isaac Newton, by Sir Godfrey Keller, 1689

Sir Isaac Newton, by Sir Godfrey Keller, 1689

If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Sir Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675, Julian/February 15, 1676, Gregorian

Other references:

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2 Responses to Quote of the moment: “Shoulders of giants” (February 15)

  1. […] visual aides clarifying points of grammar, see The Oatmeal.Ed Darrell traces the history of “Standing on the shoulders of giants” (point to point, point observation …).John J. McKay: Here There Be MonstersDualism, […]

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  2. John Lowe says:

    Improving my math and statistical literacy has been an exercise in lifelong learning because these were my most difficult topics in high school and college (it’s better now). Having grappled with real world examples requiring numerical integration, regression analysis, what have you, I’ve seen the importance of doing math and stats education well; I might have been dumb at math as a kid, but it wasn’t taught well to me, either.

    I read On the Shoulders of Giants several years ago. I thought readers might be interested to know that it’s available freely as a downloadable pdf from the National Academies Press – http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=1532. Last year, NAP made it’s entire library available online for free, something that I thought was entirely cool. That might be a blog topic in itself someday.

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