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Standing on the shoulders of Giants

On the side of a £2 coin - something I had never noticed before it was pointed out to me.

I heard someone speak on this at a thanksgiving meeting for a Manchester Charity. They actually gave away £2 coins at the end of the meeting I guess to reinforce the message.

The next day I looked into the phrase, which was made by Issac Newton.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

He was born into an Anglican Family in Woolsthrope, Lincolnshire on Christmas Day, 1642. That wasn't special, his family not that influential, and his early years turbulent. He was separated from his mother for some time, taken out of school and had a difficult relationship with his step father. No one really understood his genius until he was awarded a scholarship to study at Cambridge at 19 yrs old.

The sheer volume of his work and accomplishments is staggering

At the age of 24, Newton discovered that light refracted through a prism, which led to the first reflecting telescope being made. Arguably the modern theories of quantum mechanics, photons, and the idea of wave–particle duality were all influenced by his early work with light theory.

He was curious to solve the distances between the planets in our solar system, and prove their orbital path around the sun. You would think that was hard enough, but he had to invent calculus in order to provide the mathematical framework for this project. This led to working out the moons gravitational influence on the earth and enabled tides to be predicted far more accurately.

His most memorable discovery was Gravity, how it works, its influence etc. He wrote extensively on this and this single topic changed many of the ways we work out space travel, trajectory, mathematics, flight etc. today.

When he was 45, he published 'Principia Mathematica' which outlined three three main principles of motion. In just 26 years from the time he started at Cambridge and with a sketchy education before that, he was emerging as a highly influential figure in British society and had really placed his mark on Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Economics, Philosophy and even Theology, with his many published Christian Tracts.

He was asked to help solve a problem by the Treasury, who was finding that people were melting coins down as the metal the coin was was made of was worth more than its face value. He invented an alloy which had no value beyond the use in coins, immediately solving the problem and destroying the black market trade of coin metal. At 54, he became the Warden and later Master of the Royal Mint.

His life was so rich and diverse he was offered the presidency of the Royal Society in 1703 at the age of 61. Queen Anne, Knighted Issac Newton in 1705 and he died in 1726 aged 84 He is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

And so to my point.

This phrase 'Standing on the shoulders of giants' summarises his genius, he learned from the people around his, he expanded some fo their thinking, he acknowledged their influence on his own life.

It's as if he had the ability to remove any doubt or fear of failure from his own mind. He seemed able to push through the problems he faced to solve problems even when the challenge seemed completely impossible.

That has been an inspiration in my own life, when faced with difficult situations or problems I didn't have an answer for. I just kept looking, kept searching for something to solve the impasse of the situation.

Then to the shoulders of giants. Who's shoulders are we standing on ? and who will stand on our shoulders.

We should all have some mentor or mentors in our own lives and we should recognise the people we have learnt from, whether life lessons, technique for something or just plain good old fashion advice.

But the harder question is who are we mentoring, who are we helping ? Of course there are our children, but don't you come across people who you feel - they are going places, lets help them.

I close with this. A friend of mine Trudy from the USA, who lives in Uganda six months of each year, setting up libraries, was in Uganda last time and discovered a little boy (7 yrs old) on the street selling sponges. He had little chance of making it in life, but they chatted and she saw something in him.

Trudy took young Amos home to the slum area of Kampala gave his mother a little gift to help them get food that day. She enquired if he was in school, only to be told by the mother, they just couldn't afford it.

Trudy posted the story on her Facebook stream, and asked for a sponsor. I immediately responded and Amos has now been in school for a year. During that year, he's caught up and passed the ability of some kids in the class. His hunger for learning is insatiable. That's all he needed was a chance.

As you pray, ask God who you could help, it might be a weekly coffee to provide encouragement, it might require putting a child in a developing country through school and potentially university.

By God's grace we are here because we too have stood on the shoulders of giants. Let's give someone an opportunity like that today.

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