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language of science

The Language of Science: Lost in Translation

These days, most scientific work is done in English. But why is English the “language of science” when brilliant scientists come from all corners of the globe? And does it matter?

We like to think that science transcends language. After all, experiments are experiments and data is data, right?

Actually, language and translation have always been vital to the progression of science. The English language’s current dominance is relatively new, and has had both positive and negative effects.

How English Won Out As the Language of Science

alhazen_the_persian

Ibn al-Haytham, considered the inventor of the scientific method.

The first scientists most definitely did not speak English, or even Latin or Greek. They spoke the languages of ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, and ancient China. Then came the ancient Greeks and Romans. Their work was later translated by medieval Islamic scientists and scholars, who in turn went on to produce their own impressive discoveries.

By the Renaissance, translators had translated most of the Arabic and Greek texts into Latin, allowing European scholars to build on the knowledge they contained.  Read more