Language is the most essential medium of scientific activity. Many historians, sociologists and science studies scholars have investigated scientific language for this reason, but only few have examined those cases where language itself has become an object of scientific discussion. Over the centuries scientists have sought to control, refine and engineer language for various epistemological, communicative and nationalistic purposes. This book seeks to explore cases in the history of science in which questions or concerns with language have bubbled to the surface in scientific discourse. This opens a window into the particular ways in which scientists have conceived of and construed language as the central medium of their activity across different cultural contexts and places, and the clashes and tensions that have manifested their many attempts to engineer it to both preserve and enrich its function. The subject of language draws out many topics that have mostly been neglected in the history of science, such as the connection between the emergence of national languages and the development of science within national settings, and allows us to connect together historical episodes from many understudied cultural and linguistic venues such as Eastern European and medieval Hebrew science.

chapter 1|8 pages


ByMiles MacLeod, Rocío G. Sumillera, Jan Surman, Ekaterina Smirnova

chapter 2|14 pages

Modern Science and the Spirit of Language, Literature, and Philology

ByMatthias Dörries

part 1|64 pages

Language, Rhetoric, and History

chapter 3|18 pages

How Language Became a Tool

The Reconceptualisation of Language and the Empirical Turn in Seventeenth-Century Britain
ByMiles MacLeod

chapter 4|15 pages

The Beginnings of Scientific Terminology in Polish

Kłos's Algorithmus (1538) and Grzepski's Geometria (1566)
ByJerzy Biniewicz

chapter 5|17 pages

Language and History in the Context of the Société des Observateurs de l'Homme (1799–1804)

ByMartin Herrnstadt, Laurens Schlicht

chapter 6|13 pages

Contested Boundaries

How Scientists Deal with Uncertainty and Ambiguity in Language
ByPriya Venkatesan Hays

part 2|78 pages

The Creation of Scientific Terminology

chapter 7|25 pages

Reading Astrolabes in Medieval Hebrew

ByJosefina Rodríguez Arribas

chapter 8|18 pages

Opyt in the Social Lexicon of Modernity

The Experience/Experiment Dichotomy
ByEkaterina Smirnova

chapter 9|18 pages

Linguistic Precision and Scientific Accuracy

Searching for the Proper Name of “Oxygen” in French, Danish, and Polish
ByJan Surman

chapter 10|16 pages

Mathematical Machines

Automating Thinking?
ByHelena Durnová

part 3|54 pages

Imagining Universal Languages

chapter 11|21 pages

Seventeenth-Century British Projects for a Universal Language and Their Reception in the Augustan Age

The Cases of John Wilkins and Jonathan Swift
ByRocío G. Sumillera

chapter 12|12 pages

One Second Language for Mankind

The Rise and Decline of the World Auxiliary Language Movement in the Belle Époque
ByMarkus Krajewski

chapter 13|20 pages

Impacts of a Global Language on Science

Are There Disadvantages?
ByScott L. Montgomery