The caching of critical scientific contributions in an obscure language is an unusual phenomenon in the Western world. Dissemination to many is the usual fate. The discoveries of Johannes Evangelista Purkyně, one of the founders of modern physiology and pharmacology, belong in the restricted category. In some instances the observetions published in Czech were overlooked for almost a century. Purkyně was born in 1787, in Libochovice, Bohemia—old Austro-Hungary. Czechoslovakia was not constituted until the Treaty of Versailles. The passionate nationalism of the Czechs, apparent more than a century before their independence, was supported by Purkyně.
Although Czech was Purkyně's native tongue, he was skilled in German and Latin, and his linguistic talents included French, English, Russian, Polish, Greek, Italian, Hungarian, Serbian, Lithuanian, and Danish. Such a recounting is indeed remarkable even in his day, when familiarity with several languages was an accepted prerequisite in academic circles. Henry J. John, the
J. H. T.. THE BRILLIANT CZECH PHYSIOLOGIST. JAMA. 1961;178(10):1028-1029. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040490054014