“Standing on the shoulders of giants” – who said that and why?

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Personal modesty about one’s achievements is not something we see much of today, is it? It seems to be only the really great people of the past who seem to display that trait, don’t you think? Nowadays the ‘performers’ prefer to make grandiose boasts (often false) from the rooftops, eh?

English genius scientist & mathematician Isaac Newton from Lincolnshire was just one such man of modesty, who goes back some three hundred years, was the most influential scientist of the seventeenth century and someone that indeed created the foundation of modern physics. He is the one best known person, for using the phrase (who when praised recorded) ‘if I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’ – meaning of course that his contribution was minimal compared to those who had gone before him.

The irony comes in that his sound words, demonstrated that very fact in themselves, because they are not actually of his own invention, but came from someone at least five hundred years before him in the 1100s, or even earlier – “… we see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours“.

This amazing man Newton made many-many contributions to science and mathematics too numerous to mention, but he is probably best known perhaps to the ordinary people for his formulation of the laws of gravity (his word) together with his favourite story of an apple falling from a tree giving him the inspiration that it must be by being attracted to the centre of the earth – though it took a couple of decades to fully develop all of his theories. It has all changed the World, hasn’t it? Oh yes, there have been many scientific developments since him (like Einstein’s theory of relativity), but you can for example thank him for the existence nowadays of satellites above and circulating the earth that provide many modern communications.

The problem with our society here has is that it doesn’t really recognise that scientists and engineers (who turn science into inventions) have given them ‘everything’ they value in their current lifestyles – like say electricity. phones, light bulbs, airliners, water & sewage facilities, radios, glasses, trains, computers, televisions, mobiles, gadgets, high-rise buildings, heating capabilities, major bridges, sat navs, telescopes, medical scanners, energy production, kitchen appliances, modern farming, music reproduction, buses, hearing aids, manufacturing, motorcars, printing, satellites, bicycles, lifts, and so much else. [Well, we all probably nevertheless want to forget the scientists’ invention of dynamite, and nuclear bombs, don’t we?].

That total lack of appreciation in the UK for science does though create a problem for our potential future in Britain, doesn’t it? The next generation don’t want to get into science and technology – too much mental effort you see, so they prefer to laze it out and study the likes of PE, or media, or art, or music, and such, that may be pleasing and pleasant but takes the future nowhere, does it?. Yes, all fine interests, requiring talent of course, but will make little contribution in the modern high-tec competitive world, don’t you think?

Some renowned scientists from past and present, you might of heard of, who have got us where we are today, would include men and women like Aristotle; Archimedes; Galileo; Descartes; Hooke; Coulomb; Ampere, Volta; Cavendish; Curie; Gauss; Pasteur; Rutherford; Darwin; Maxwell; Kelvin; Einstein; Edison; Bell; Boyle; Bragg; Bose; Marconi; Hubbard; Hawking?

The experts say that mankind is causing unsustainable global warming that risks the destruction of our planet, and some want to blame science and inventions – but it isn’t, it results from mankind’s self-centred and selfish use of scientific knowledge , doesn’t it?

[Most scientists don’t come into direct contact with the general public, but you unknowingly often meet those trained in science all the time, don’t you? Like say a doctor, a nurse, or hospital medical professional, a computer specialist, a teacher, a pharmacist, an architect, a food nutritionist advisor, an exercise trainer, a reporter, or it could even be a banker or salesperson, or the like drawing on their taught skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity, and judgement?]

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