Fun_People Archive
30 Oct
On the Shoulders of Giants

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 100 12:53:13 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: On the Shoulders of Giants

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
From: Nev Dull <>
Forwarded-by: Craig Good <>
Excerpted-from: Wordsmith <>
AWADmail Issue 18
From: Anna Lindsay (

Thought this might interest you about Newton's quotation, "If I have seen
farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

(From "An Underground Education" by Richard Zacks, p.37)

"Pundits use this quote as the ultimate expression of humility in genius,
but what they miss (and almost everyone else does too) is that Newton wrote
that line to a very, very, short man, a hunchbacked fellow scientist with
whom he was having a bitter feud.

"Newton (1642-1727) was furious that Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was staking
claim to many key discoveries in optics and calculus. (Hooke did in fact
build the first reflecting telescope). [...]

"Newton wrote a long letter to Hooke on February 5, 1675, defending himself
from charges of intellectual piracy, praising Hooke for trifles, and then
Newton built to the famous `standing on the shoulders of giants' line.
(Newton, by the way, adapted it from a line about pygmies in a then-famous
book called Anatomy of Melancholy.)

"You might translate Newton's sentiments: `While I admit to building on
the work of my scientific predecessors, I certainly didn't learn anything
from a dwarf like you.'"

Also noted by Mike Sloane ( -Anu

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