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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Shoulder

Shoulder Quotes (33 quotes)

A few of the results of my activities as a scientist have become embedded in the very texture of the science I tried to serve—this is the immortality that every scientist hopes for. I have enjoyed the privilege, as a university teacher, of being in a position to influence the thought of many hundreds of young people and in them and in their lives I shall continue to live vicariously for a while. All the things I care for will continue for they will be served by those who come after me. I find great pleasure in the thought that those who stand on my shoulders will see much farther than I did in my time. What more could any man want?
In 'The Meaning of Death,' in The Humanist Outlook edited by A. J. Ayer (1968) [See Gerald Holton and Sir Isaac Newton].
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A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension.
I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow.
In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze.
I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the “growing edge;” the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead.
But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning.
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. “If I have seen further than other men,” said Isaac Newton, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Adding A Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science (1964), Introduction.
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An enthusiastic philosopher, of whose name we are not informed, had constructed a very satisfactory theory on some subject or other, and was not a little proud of it. “But the facts, my dear fellow,” said his friend, “the facts do not agree with your theory.”—“Don't they?” replied the philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, “then, tant pis pour les faits;”—so much the worse for the facts!
From Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841), Vol. 3, 313, footnote.
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Aristotle, in spite of his reputation, is full of absurdities. He says that children should be conceived in the Winter, when the wind is in the North, and that if people marry too young the children will be female. He tells us that the blood of females is blacker then that of males; that the pig is the only animal liable to measles; that an elephant suffering from insomnia should have its shoulders rubbed with salt, olive-oil, and warm water; that women have fewer teeth than men, and so on. Nevertheless, he is considered by the great majority of philosophers a paragon of wisdom.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 19. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 63.
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As a result of the phenomenally rapid change and growth of physics, the men and women who did their great work one or two generations ago may be our distant predecessors in terms of the state of the field, but they are our close neighbors in terms of time and tastes. This may be an unprecedented state of affairs among professionals; one can perhaps be forgiven if one characterizes it epigrammatically with a disastrously mixed metaphor; in the sciences, we are now uniquely privileged to sit side-by-side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
In 'On the Recent Past of Physics', American Journal of Physics (1961), 29, 807.
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From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
Quoted in 'Sport: Poet of the Depths', Time (28 Mar 1960)
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GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  124.
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He scarce had ceased when the superior fiend
Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield
Ethereal temper, massy, large and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening from the top of Fésolè,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or mountains in her spotty globe.
Paradise Lost, Books I and II (1667), edited by Anna Baldwin (1998), lines 283-91, p. 9.
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Here I most violently want you to
Avoid one fearful error, a vicious flaw.
Don’t think that our bright eyes were made that we
Might look ahead; that hips and knees and ankles
So intricately bend that we might take
Big strides, and the arms are strapped to the sturdy shoulders
And hands are given for servants to each side
That we might use them to support our lives.
All other explanations of this sort
Are twisted, topsy-turvy logic, for
Nothing what is born produces its own use.
Sight was not born before the light of the eyes,
Nor were words and pleas created before the tongue
Rather the tongue's appearance long preceded
Speech, and the ears were formed far earlier than
The sound first heard. To sum up, all the members Existed, I should think, before their use, So use has not caused them to have grown.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 4, lines 820-8, 145.
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How can you shorten the subject? That stern struggle with the multiplication table, for many people not yet ended in victory, how can you make it less? Square root, as obdurate as a hardwood stump in a pasture nothing but years of effort can extract it. You can’t hurry the process. Or pass from arithmetic to algebra; you can’t shoulder your way past quadratic equations or ripple through the binomial theorem. Instead, the other way; your feet are impeded in the tangled growth, your pace slackens, you sink and fall somewhere near the binomial theorem with the calculus in sight on the horizon. So died, for each of us, still bravely fighting, our mathematical training; except for a set of people called “mathematicians”—born so, like crooks.
In Too Much College: Or, Education Eating up Life, with Kindred Essays in Education and Humour (1939), 8.
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I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself ‘Dijkstra would not have liked this’, well, that would be enough immortality for me.
…...
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If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.
As quoted, previously on webpage with short bio of Hal Abelson at publicknowledge.org (as archived from Nov 2004).
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If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
[Original spelling: 'ye sholders of Giants.']
Letter to Robert Hooke (5 Feb 1675-6).In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 416. Note that Newton may have been using the quotation as used earlier by Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1624). In the early twelfth century, Bernard of Chartres made a similar statement: 'Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.' For exhaustive treatment of the earlier sources of this aphorism, see Robert K. Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants (1965).
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In science men have discovered an activity of the very highest value in which they are no longer, as in art, dependent for progress upon the appearance of continually greater genius, for in science the successors stand upon the shoulders of their predecessors; where one man of supreme genius has invented a method, a thousand lesser men can apply it. … In art nothing worth doing can be done without genius; in science even a very moderate capacity can contribute to a supreme achievement.
Essay, 'The Place Of Science In A Liberal Education.' In Mysticism and Logic: and Other Essays (1919), 41.
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In the moonlight
While drinking homemade wine
My sorrow hung heavy
And my heart felt like lead.
The moon was golden yellow
The night soft and mellow.
There was a smell of jasmine
All around.
And I felt the weight of the world
Upon my shoulders.
I looked at the twinkling stars in the sky
So far and wide
Here’s to you
I lifted my wine
And my eyes looked upon the brilliance
Of the moon and stars
From afar...
…...
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Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Bob, why are you resisting me?” I said, “I’m not resisting You!” He said, “You gonna follow Me?” I said, “I’ve never thought about that before!” He said, “When you’re not following Me, you’re resisting Me.”
Bob Dylan
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 156
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Many persons nowadays seem to think that any conclusion must be very scientific if the arguments in favor of it are derived from twitching of frogs’ legs—especially if the frogs are decapitated—and that—on the other hand—any doctrine chiefly vouched for by the feelings of human beings—with heads on their shoulders—must be benighted and superstitious.
Pragmatism: A New Name for Old Ways of Thinking (1907)
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Modern man is weighed down more by the burden of responsibility than by the burden of sin. We think him more a savior who shoulders our responsibilities than him who shoulders our sins. If instead of making decisions we have but to obey and do our duty, we feel it as a sort of salvation.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 53.
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Neutrinos, they are very small
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed—you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.
In poem 'Cosmic Gall', The New Yorker (17 Dec 1960). Collected in Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1964), 5. Note: In fact, about 1014 neutrinos from the Sun and 103 neutrinos in cosmic rays pass through our bodies each second. Neutrinos are now known to have a very small amount of mass, and they do interact (through the weak force).
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Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I've stood on the shoulders of giants.” These days we stand on each other's feet!
'You and Your Research', Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar, 7 Mar 1986.
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No collateral science had profited so much by palæontology as that which teaches the structure and mode of formation of the earth’s crust, with the relative position, time, and order of formation of its constituent stratified and unstratified parts. Geology has left her old hand-maiden mineralogy to rest almost wholly on the broad shoulders of her young and vigorous offspring, the science of organic remains.
In article 'Palæontology' contributed to Encyclopædia Britannica (8th ed., 1859), Vol. 17, 91.
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On the way back [from the moon] we had an EVA [extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk] I had a chance to look around while I was outside and Earth was off to the right, 180,000 miles away, a little thin sliver of blue and white like a new moon surrounded by this blackness of space. Back over my left shoulder was almost a full moon. I didn’t feel like I was a participant. It was like sitting in the last row of the balcony, looking down at all of that play going on down there. I had that insignificant feeling of the immensity of this, God’s creation.
…...
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One evening at a Joint Summer Research Congerence in the early 1990’s Nicholai Reshetikhin and I [David Yetter] button-holed Flato, and explained at length Shum’s coherence theorem and the role of categories in “quantum knot invariants”. Flato was persistently dismissive of categories as a “mere language”. I retired for the evening, leaving Reshetikhin and Flato to the discussion. At the next morning’s session, Flato tapped me on the shoulder, and, giving a thumbs-up sign, whispered, “Hey! Viva les categories! These new ones, the braided monoidal ones.”
In David N. Yetter, Functorial Knot Theory: Categories of Tangles, Coherence, Categorical Deformations, and Topological Invariants (2001), 8. Yetter writes this personal anecdote is given as a narrative in his own words. Presumable the phrases in quotation marks are based on recollection when written years later.
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One of the differences between the natural and the social sciences is that in the natural sciences, each succeeding generation stands on the shoulders of those that have gone before, while in the social sciences, each generation steps in the faces of its predecessors.
Skinner's Theory of Teaching Machines (1959), 167.
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She has the sort of body you go to see in marble. She has golden hair. Quickly, deftly, she reaches with both hands behind her back and unclasps her top. Setting it on her lap, she swivels ninety degrees to face the towboat square. Shoulders back, cheeks high, she holds her pose without retreat. In her ample presentation there is defiance of gravity. There is no angle of repose. She is a siren and these are her songs.
…...
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The earliest of my childhood recollections is being taken by my grandfather when he set out in the first warm days of early spring with a grubbing hoe (we called it a mattock) on his shoulder to seek the plants, the barks and roots from which the spring medicine for the household was prepared. If I could but remember all that went into that mysterious decoction and the exact method of preparation, and with judicious advertisement put the product upon the market, I would shortly be possessed of wealth which might be made to serve the useful purpose of increasing the salaries of all pathologists. … But, alas! I remember only that the basic ingredients were dogwood bark and sassafras root, and to these were added q.s. bloodroot, poke and yellow dock. That the medicine benefited my grandfather I have every reason to believe, for he was a hale, strong old man, firm in body and mind until the infection came against which even spring medicine was of no avail. That the medicine did me good I well know, for I can see before me even now the green on the south hillside of the old pasture, the sunlight in the strip of wood where the dogwood grew, the bright blossoms and the delicate pale green of the leaf of the sanguinaria, and the even lighter green of the tender buds of the sassafras in the hedgerow, and it is good to have such pictures deeply engraved in the memory.
From address, 'A Medical Retrospect'. Published in Yale Medical Journal (Oct 1910), 17, No. 2, 57. [Note: q.s. in an abbreviation for quantum sufficit meaning “as much as is sufficient,” when used as a quantity specification in medicine and pharmacology. -Webmaster]
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The personal adventures of a geologist would form an amusing narrative. He is trudging along, dusty and weather­beaten, with his wallet at his back, and his hammer on his shoulder, and he is taken for a stone-mason travelling in search of work. In mining-countries, he is supposed to be in quest of mines, and receives many tempting offers of shares in the ‘Wheel Dream’, or the ‘Golden Venture’;—he has been watched as a smuggler; it is well if he has not been committed as a vagrant, or apprehended as a spy, for he has been refused admittance to an inn, or has been ushered into the room appropriated to ostlers and postilions. When his fame has spread among the more enlightened part of the community of a district which he has been exploring, and inquiries are made of the peasantry as to the habits and pursuits of the great philosopher who has been among them, and with whom they have become familiar, it is found that the importance attached by him to shells and stones, and such like trumpery, is looked upon as a species of derangement, but they speak with delight of his affability, sprightliness, and good-humour. They respect the strength of his arm, and the weight of his hammer, as they point to marks which he inflicted on the rocks, and they recount with wonder his pedestrian performances, and the voracious appetite with which, at the close of a long day’s work he would devour the coarsest food that was set before him.
In Practical Geology and Mineralogy: With Instructions for the Qualitative Analysis of Minerals (1841), 31-2.
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The train, panting up past lonely farms,
Fed by the fireman's restless arms…
Past cotton grass and moorland boulder,
Shoveling white steam over her shoulder.
Poem written as narration for documentary film "Night Mail" (1936), made for the British Post Office.
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There is a story that once, not long after he came to Berlin, Planck forgot which room had been assigned to him for a lecture and stopped at the entrance office of the university to find out. Please tell me, he asked the elderly man in charge, 'In which room does Professor Planck lecture today?' The old man patted him on the shoulder 'Don't go there, young fellow,' he said 'You are much too young to understand the lectures of our learned Professor Planck'.
Anonymous
In Barbara Lovett Cline, Men Who Made a New Physics: Physicists and the Quantum Theory (1987), 46.
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This minding of other people’s business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor’s shoulder or fly at his throat.
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), 14.
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We are like dwarfs [the moderns] sitting on the shoulders of giants [the ancients]. Our glance can thus take in more things and reach farther than theirs. It is not because our sight is sharper nor our height greater than theirs; it is that we are carried and elevated by the high stature of the giants.
Attributed to Bernard of Chartres in John of Salisbury, Metalogicon [1159], Book III, chapter 4, quoted in E. Jeaneau, “Bernard of Chartres”, in C. C. Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1971), Vol. 3, 19.
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When they saw they would never be able to set a Catholic head on his shoulders they at least struck off the Protestant one.
Aphorism 94 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 59.
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You have … been told that science grows like an organism. You have been told that, if we today see further than our predecessors, it is only because we stand on their shoulders. But this [Nobel Prize Presentation] is an occasion on which I should prefer to remember, not the giants upon whose shoulders we stood, but the friends with whom we stood arm in arm … colleagues in so much of my work.
From Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1960).
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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