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May 1965

The Curse of Babel

Arch Ophthalmol. 1965;73(5):609-610. doi:10.1001/archopht.1965.00970030611002

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The "Curse of Babel" is what Duke-Elder has called our commitment to multilingual communications. The beauty of individual tongues, so important for the appreciation of literature and to some extent of art, has little to commend itself to science where directness of expression is of supreme importance. It was not a happy day for the scientist when mediaeval man turned away from Latin, the then common language of science, in favor of more secular means of communication. Nor have the several attempts to restore a common tongue in the form of Esperanto or other hybrids made more than symbolic impact.

To those of us brought up in an English-speaking country, the prospect of using English as a universal language of science is pleasing and possibly logical. In India, English is the language of communication among the provinces and Japan's scientific journals are published in English, as well as in Japanese.

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