Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Top 5 lingua franca of science

In EMBO reports there is an article titled: Is there science beyond English? EMBO reports 2007, 8, 2, 112) The answer is ofcourse; ‘Yes, there is’. The problem is that an important study that is published in Sanskrit will not easily reach a large public and gain the appropriate recognition. The article describes some obstacles of science that is written in a foreign language, Brazil is taken as an example. (I said foreign… but I must admit that English is a foreign language for me, hope that is not too obvious.)

So here is my : Top 5 lingua franca of science

1) Latin

Latin was the academic language for a long time. A lot of books that created ‘modern’ science was written in Latin. Isaac Newton, Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Carolus Linnaeus and many other old time heroes wrote their famous work in Latin.

2) German

German was the most important scientific language of physics and chemistry in the 19th and early 20th century. In the Wiley Backfile Collection you can find so many famous publications in German by famous scientists like Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Friedrich Wöhler and Emil Fischer to name a few.

3) Greek

Ptolemy, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, Plato, Pythagoras and many other ancient Greeks laid down the foundations of science.

4) English

Scientific language number one, nowadays. Two famous examples: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. by Charles Darwin. And more recent : Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid by Watson and Crick.

5) Russian

For chemistry Russian was a very important but somewhat ignored language. Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic system in a Russian textbook in Osnovy Khimii (Principles of Chemistry). The importance of his work was recognised when an abstract of his work on the elements was translated (yep.. in German; see here as well). Other famous chemists that did their work in Russian : Alexander Mikhailovich Zaitsev, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Butlerov, Sergei Nikolaevich Reformatskii and others ofcource.

3 comments:

kosmisch said...

One of the worst things I know is when you find _the_ reference you were looking for and it's either not avaible online with your subscriptions or it is but it's in russian/german/japanese or any other language you don't understand. God should have invented only one universal language. Period.

een of andere vent said...

Japanese patents are my worst nightmare. Esperanto was not so bad after all perhaps.

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