On the shoulders of giants

In 1159 John of Salisbury wrote “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.” Many years later (1676) Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

There are in fact many versions of the phrase, but they all lead to the same place, we rise a little higher often because of the work that other have done before us, and our achievements are often never quite ours alone.

I know this painting has a cartoon feel about it, but it has a relevant (to me at least) point about it, Apollo 11 did not happen just because of one or two scientists beavering away, it was thanks to the giants who tried to see a little further throughout our history.

So, to reach the Moon we start at the beginning with the Greek astronomers and general clever cloggs such as Thales, Happarchus, Ptolemy and onwards and upwards through Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Messier, Bode, Cayley, Beer, Joule, Lockyer, Einstein, Bohr, and Von Braun. I realize everyone will have their own list, and that this list is far too empty when you think of some of the astronomers and physicists that are not on their. My original idea had been to paint something much taller, and maybe I will some day.

Given the recent budget cuts in space exploration I get the feeling I should add a politician or two with axes hacking away at the bottom of the tower of giants.

Other details, watercolour on board, 13” x 30”

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One Thought to “On the shoulders of giants”

  1. Chris

    Reminds me of a quote on our wall:

    Rosa sat so Martin could walk;
    Martin walked so Obama could run;
    Obama is running so we all can fly!


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