Standing at the Feet of Giants; or sitting on their Shoulders?

September 17, 2005 at 11:26 pm 2 comments

Been almost 3 weeks, and I still feel sad about the exit of Howard Lovy on nanobot. Quite a comprehensive independent blogger on nanotechnology issues, he was even featured in “Nanotechnology for Dummies”.

Anyway, I digress. This entry is inspired by his opening sentences:

Did you ever get the feeling you’re not exactly the most brilliant LED in the display? Nevertheless, here I am at Caltech, attempting to learn from the learned.

A giant of 20th Century Science and very likely, 21st too.

As a student in your younger days, have you ever stood outside your school gates, gaze in and wonder/marvel at the alumni who passed through them? Of ordinary folks who had gone on to greater things in life and had made a positive impact on society. Would you have felt overwhelmed or inspired? Or is there no school spirit at all?

The former would probably be “standing at the feet of the Giants”, to be crushed by the pressure and end up performing mediocrely; while the latter would most likely make full use of opportunities (if they exist) in school to better their predecessors. In the case of Singapore, I still remember (as a young teenager then) walking through the hallways of my alma maters, looking up and seeing the honor rolls of ex-students who had gone on to be awarded [insert your list of prestigious PSC scholarships]. They did somehow ignite a spark in me, and made me want to join their ranks. For Country! For Honor! For Glory! Of course, now being older (and hopefully wiser) I know that bonded scholarships aren’t necessarily good for one’s career and aspirations in life. But anyway, I am sure you get my drift.

New Campus 3
Prime Ministers had once walked past, will you be next?

Just as I thought JC would be the last time I would see honor rolls (or plaques), I was wrong. Universities the world over are always quick to stress out to both their students and visitors alike, ranging from the giants who have/had once strolled their grounds to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Some examples:
boyle plaque
17th century bio-nanomicrotechnology

Chicago nuclear rxn
20th Century atomic science

WWI Honor Roll
They fought and died in a war that was supposed to end all wars.

Then there is the existence of Academic Genealogy Trees, of which most academics and grad students are in at least one.

I will stop here with a quote from John of Salisbury (1159):

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. 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.”


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Wandering Scholar(s) Of University Snobbishness: What class are you in?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hyperchondriac  |  October 19, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    the pic on the war that ends all wars….is that from Gilman Hall at JHU?

  • 2. takchek  |  October 19, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    A college in Oxford.


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