Topical Guide 45
Sources and Influences
Today’s impractical craftspeople owe much to yesterday’s—not, perhaps, in the way that Newton felt when he said, “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” but maybe something more like, “If I have come up with more than my share of crackpot inventions it has been by sitting at the feet of many an earnest screwball.” *
I’m pleased to tell you that, after extensive research, I am able to say without fear of contradiction that the “Adventurer’s Bubble” in Impractical Craftsman was almost certainly inspired by the “Spherical Transparent Velocipede” that first appeared in De Natuur in 1884. My primary source for this assertion is Leonard de Vries’s indispensable Victorian Inventions (American Heritage Press, 1971).
* Robert K. Merton points out, in On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript, that, according to Robert Burton, the aphorism about standing on the shoulders of giants goes back to Didacus Stella as “Pigmei Gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi Gigantes vident.”
[more to come on Thursday, July 15, 2021]
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