Saturday, September 03, 2005

On the Shoulder of Giants

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
I have long been appealed by Newton's flair of creating quotable quotes despite his actual reputation of being vengeful and arrogant. In his letter to his arch rival Robert Hooke, he penned down the abovementioned sentence. Newton presumably intended it as a sarcastic remark to tease Robert Hooke's relatively short stature, but it has been so cleverly disguised as a note of humility. This sentence, without the actual historical context, is such a perfect example of humiliation in which a scientist acknowledges his success as being built on previous works.

Today, I am reminded of this post because of a science article I read in Slashdot. Well, the article in itself is nothing so particular, but I was particularly attracted by the footnote at the bottom of the webpage. It's a revision of Newton's quote, as follows.
If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.
I have to give a loud applause for the person who came up with this line. Fantastic indeed! The spirit of science, contrary to popular belief, is not to believe in what is taught by the teacher totally. Rather, it's the spirit of sceptism, inquisition and asking question, that have made us where we are today. If not because of Galileo's sceptism of Aristotlic teaching (e.g. heavy object falls faster than light objects), he wouldn't have discovered that free fall speed is the same regardless of its mass.

Well, enough for science today. I just can't help but to show my admiration for that quote. :D


Winson Kang said...

Hahahaha.....On the shoulder of giant!!!!!!!1 this was the first sentence i heard in my first physics lecure in NUS. I remember i gave some thought to this beautiful language!!!Nice!!

Joanne said...

I was watching "Around The World In 80 Days" a few nights ago, and one of the characters said this:

We are at a golden age, everything there is to be discovered, has already been discovered.

The movie was set a few decades ago. Nobody believed human could one day fly. But look where we are now. The human race is eternally indebted to science. I can't wait to see what the future will bring!

day-dreamer said...

Indeed a food for thought.

And I can't help but to agree with Joanne. =)