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Book review: Scientific Babel: The Language of Science from the Fall of Latin to the Rise of English by Michael Gordin

By Philip Ball   April 2015

(Profile, £19.99)Science

According to Galileo, the language of nature is mathematics. But the language in which he reported his revolutionary observations with the telescope was neither pure maths nor his native Italian, but Latin. It was in this ossified tongue that scholars of all stamps had elected to communicate in the Renaissance: a choice dictated not just by the convenience of having a shared language (Italian would have done just as well for that) but for its symbolic link to an idealised vision of antiquity.

Yet times were changing. Isaac Newton wrote his…

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