Sir Isaac Newton said to his rival Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. What a wonderful idea. The knowledge that no man is an island and you can look to others to inspire greatness in yourself. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in my quest for knowledge and truth.
*** Actually, my FAVORITE quote from Newton is “Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.” But that doesn’t have anything to do with my review, so I won’t mention it.***
The Mark of a Giant: 7 People Who Changed The World is written by the same brilliant mind that gave us Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World and Seven Miracles that Saved America. In The Mark of a Giant, Ted Stewart tells us about seven people in our history that helped shape our world.
- Abraham of Ur
- Pericles the Greek
- Paul – Apostle to the Gentiles
- The Incomparable Mr. Newton
- Madame Marie Curie
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Mother Theresa
Each chapter gives us a brief contextual history of the time period followed by a summerical biography of the giant. We learn where they were born, what kind of childhood they had and the life experiences that led them to the life that made them a giant. Each chapter is concluded by discussing the implication of one simple question: What if they hadn’t done what they had done?
My three favorite chapters were the chapters on Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and Mother Theresa. I couldn’t help but be enthralled with who they were, what they experienced, and what they did to change the world. Sir Isaac Newton hated math but discovered that he couldn’t explore natural philosophy (aka science) as much as he wanted to without mastering mathematics. That was his only motivation to learn it. Marie Curie loved being a mother and would happily go about traditional motherly duties (like making jam) in between her experiments with pitchblende. The loss of her second child to miscarriage at five months was a devastating blow to Marie. Mother Theresa bucked the system and, much to the chagrin of political elitists, used any and every public opportunity (including her acceptance speech for the nobel peace prize) to speak on the evils of abortion.
While there are likely thousands of people who could have been included in this book (no doubt narrowing down the list to seven was arduous), those who were included clearly made world changing discoveries. Just imagine what the world would be like if the entire world still lived a polytheistic life? The implications of hygiene alone from the Law of Moses is proof enough that the God of Abraham has civilized the world. Pericles the Greek was the first in history to challenge the system only allowing nobles to have a say in government. The Apostle Paul was instrumental in paving they way for Christianity to establish itself as a theology entirely apart from Judaism rather than a branch of it. Along with his many mathematical and scientific discoveries, Sir Isaac Newton permanently fixed the scientific method in to the study of science. Madame Curie’s discovery of new elements and the nature of radioactivity (and it’s subsequent use for treating previously incurable diseases) had such an impact on the world that it has been compared to the discovery of fire. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s peaceful leadership of the civil rights movement was instrumental for stomping out the hatred and racism in parts of our country that was still prevalent a mere fifty years ago. His message of love and peaceful protest was arguably far more effective than the rage that paralleled his movement (and continues today.) Mother Theresa is such a wonderful example of how one person loving and caring for the individual has far more of an impact than anyone trying to change society as a whole.
Each of these people were individuals. They didn’t have governmental support or unlimited money. Each of them persevered and pushed through the societal limitations of the time and ended up changing the world. They prove to us that one person can make a difference, and even though you are “just one person” you are not alone. A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant can see farther than even the tallest of giants. We have countless others who paved the way up the mountain of discovery. Dust off your mountain boots and climb!