Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
The phrase implies that human knowledge and understanding is a cumulative affair.   Research done by one is used as a basis for those who follow, one generation gives knowledge and a treatise from which to live to the next. Ironically, the quote itself has a long history and can be attributed to a couple different sources...
The most popular version comes from Sir Isaac Newton, the British scientist who established the laws of gravity and the universal laws of motion. In 1676, at the age of 33, he wrote "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Newton would easily have seen the aphorism in Robert Burton's The Anatomy Of Melancholy - "Pygmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves."

Burton in turn took his cue from the 12th Century scholastic Bernard de Chartres who is quoted as saying "In comparison with the ancients we stand like dwarves on the shoulders of giants".

There have been several other authors to use variations on the theme over the centuries, it is Newton's phrase that was recently selected to appear on the spine of the British Two Pound coin.

Yoakum Photo MRM 17a
Isaac Yoakum -
Standing on shoulders. 
(On the back of this photo is written the single word - "Isaac", probably a young 'Ray', taken early 1900's.)

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Rev 2b: 3 July 2000 : rdk
Copyright 1999, Yoakum Archives

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