Standing on the shoulders of giants (redux)

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 in COPYCOPYCOPY, Copying, Science | No Comments

If you have read CopyCopyCopy, you’ll remember it opens with the story of the greatest and grumpiest physicist of any era, Sir Isaac Newton.

He famously admitted – under pressure from a number of people including his friend, Robert Hooke, that his work was rooted in, based on and dependent on the work of others: “if I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”

The trouble with this of course, is that it only goes halfway – it suggests that only the work of the “giants” is worth building on; the trials of those who never get to be “great” less so.

I recently found a nice quote in the New Scientist from Nobel Prize winning biologist, Peter Medawar, which counters this and reflects a much more accurate view of how things are and one which is also rather more humble.

“I should prefer not to remember the giants upon whose shoulders we stood, but the friends with whom we stood arm-in-arm”