Kennedy, Clyburn offer inspiration at King event in Charleston, S.C., Yesterday

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Patrick Kennedy, 44, served eight terms in Congress, ending his political career last January. He heads "The Next Frontier," a campaign to raise money for brain-disorder research.

"I guess the phrase, 'We all stand on the shoulders of giants' applies to me especially," he said, referring to his father.

He stressed the importance of Harvey Gantt, for whom the award is named. Gantt is a Burke High School graduate who became the first black student at Clemson University, after a lengthy legal battle that went to the Supreme Court. After being repeatedly ignored when he asked for information on the engineering program, he finally sued the school.

Read it all from the local paper.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryRace/Race Relations* South Carolina

Posted January 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

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1. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

The quote, I believe, is from Isaac Newton and states, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. 

If I’m wrong, I’m sure Gnu Ordure will be overjoyed to correct me.  grin

January 16, 1:54 pm | [comment link]
2. Gnu Ordure wrote:

You make my day, Bookworm.

Newton’s use of the metaphor is well-known, but it had been in use for several centuries. The earliest reference is found in John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon of 1159, in which he attributes it to Bernard of Chartres:

“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.”

Though he wrote it in Latin, of course.

Interestingly, the metaphor is also illustrated in one of the famous stained-glass windows of Chartres Cathedral, which were created a century after Bernard had been Chancellor of the Cathedral School. The window depicts four Old Testament prophets ((Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) as giants, and each one has one of the four evangelists, normal-sized, on their shoulders.

And your quote of Newton is slightly wrong; he wrote “a little further”, not “farther”.

And there’s no comma. smile

January 16, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
3. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Note that I said “I believe” as I was quoting it from memory.  The first time I ever used it I quoted it in Latin, but most people here speak English.  grin  The history is interesting, just as it was when I read it years ago in reference to Newton’s “twist”. 

Did Newton ever say anything about rampant elitism and condescension?  I wonder… grin

January 16, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
4. Gnu Ordure wrote:

If you know your Latin, Bookworm, would you mind answering a question? I was looking at the original quote…

Dicebat Bernardus Carnotensis nos esse quasi nanos, gigantium humeris insidentes, ut possimus plura eis et remotiora videre, non utique proprii visus acumine, aut eminentia corporis, sed quia in altum subvenimur et extollimur magnitudine gigantea.

... and I noticed that apparently the Latin for dwarf is nanos, presumably the origin of words such as nanosecond. Yet online dictionaries don’t give a translation either way for dwarf/nanos. And an etymology dictionary gives the origin as Greek:  nano-  introduced 1947 (at 14th conference of the Union Internationale de Chimie) as a prefix for units of one thousand-millionth part, from Gk. nanos “dwarf.”

So does this mean that medieval writers of Latin occasionally used Greek words when there was no Latin equivalent?

And why is there no Latin word for dwarf? That’s kind of odd…

January 17, 4:42 pm | [comment link]
5. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

I’m no student of Latin, except for occasional personal use.  It’s more my brother’s department.  The quote I was speaking of is this one

“Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident” with an apparent literal translation of

“Pygmies on the shoulders of giants see farther than the giants do.” 

The following relates some of the history already discussed

Re:  “nanos” in your quote, you’ll have to dig a lot deeper than a lowly, unscholarly worm like me.  Any chance your question is rhetorical? 

January 17, 10:17 pm | [comment link]
6. Gnu Ordure wrote:

Hey, Bookworm, I’ve been having some real fun with this. Not only have I discovered that Wikipedia and Wikiquote both have the Newton quote wrong, but there’s also a huge misattribution going on regarding the Latin quote which you just mentioned.

So first, I have to wipe the egg off my own face; in my first response to you, I said:

And your quote of Newton is slightly wrong; he wrote “a little further”, not “farther”.

That’s not correct; but that’s what Wiki said, and I trusted them. Because on the whole, they’re pretty reliable; but in this case, they got it wrong.

Wikiquote now have it right, because I’ve brought the error to their attention, and they’ve agreed to amend it. And I’ve amended Wikipedia myself.

The starting-point was the the link you gave me, which begins:

In a letter dated February 15, 1675 Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote to Robert Hooke “Pigmaei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident” which translates as “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” 

Two thoughts/questions occurred to me: 1. Did Newton write to Hooke in English or Latin? 2. That’s not a very accurate translation.

I couldn’t find the answer to question 1 on the web, so I e-mailed the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge; I don’t know who they are, but I figured they’d know about Isaac. And a very pleasant information officer named Sara was happy to confirm that Newton wrote to Hooke in English, and she scanned me a copy of the actual letter, as reproduced in “The correspondence of Isaac Newton volume 1”, edited by HW Turnbull, 1959 page 416.

So Wiki used to quote Newton: If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.

It now says, correctly: If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.

A small victory for historical accuracy. Or pedantry, if you prefer.

On the other hand, if you use Google to search for the now replaced version, you get 6.5 million hits. If you google the correct version, you get 2 thousand!! So this may be a case of shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

As regards your Latin quote, google finds 10,000 hits for it - most of them claiming that Newton wrote them to Hooke in his letter - which is just plain wrong.

There is some evidence that they are the words of Didacus Stella. But they’re certainly not Newton’s.


January 19, 9:07 pm | [comment link]

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