Binoy A. Mathew
mathew.2 at osu.edu
Mon Aug 1 22:20:27 EST 1994
In article <01HFFDTPFFBG8ZEFZ7 at melia.qut.edu.au>, DARBEN at MELIA.QUT.EDU.AU
> Sorry if this posting seems inconsequential, but I'm looking for details on one
> of my favourite quotes. I'm creating a laboratory parasitology manual for a
> medical parasitology course and I want to start it off with the hoary old
> chestnut (and entomologically impossible)
> "Big fleas have little fleas
> Upon their backs to bite'em
> And little fleas have lesser fleas
> And so ad infinitum"
> More to do with fractals than parasitology, I know, but I've found it gets the
> students thinking a fair bit. Anyway, I'm not sure whether the actual quote is
> correct (not that that has stopped anyone in the past), and I'm not sure who
> said it first (a small voice is saying "Mark Twain"). I've got this niggling
> feeling that this is the sort of thing that all parasitologists should know,
> but cultural heritage is not a big thing at this university. Anyone who does
> know the real details, please email me and let us know. Other pithy quotes are
> more than welcome.
Actually, this is not Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens, but Jonathan Swift, from
"On Poetry: A Rhapsody," and I found a slightly different version that
So Nat'ralists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
I don't know which of our versions represents the ur-text, but the one you
present appears at the opening of Schmidt & Roberts book "Foundations of
Parasitology," so . . .
Hope that was helpful.
Peace. Two fingers.
-mathew.2 at osu.edu
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