dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants

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1159, John of Salisbury, Metalogicon,

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. (English translation: Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.)


dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants (plural dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants)

  1. (figuratively, idiomatic) A person who discovers by building on previous discoveries.