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Pigmies placed on...

Posted by ESC on July 01, 2000

In Reply to: Standing on the shoulders of giants posted by joel on July 01, 2000

: I believe the phrase something like "we stand on the shoulders of giants" is a part of a longer phrase or quotation. The meaning is clear: we, in the present generation, see further because we have benefitted from the efforts of those of previous generations. But what is the correct phrase, what quotation does it come from, who said it? Thanks.

A bunch of people said it, but it looks like Lucan said it first. From John Barlett's "Familiar Quotations":

"Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves." Lucan (A.D. 39-65) from The Civil War, Ib. II, 10 (Didacus Stella).

"I say with Didacus Stella, a dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself." Robert Burton (1577-1640)from "The Anatomy of Melancholy" (1621-51).

"If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) from Letter to Robert Hooke, Feb. 5, 1675/76.

"The dwarf sees farther than the giant, when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on -- Coleridge, 'The Friend' .