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The Language of Science: From the Vernacular to the Technical

Popular Science

By: Maurice Crosland

The Lutterworth Press

Paperback | Dec 2006 | #162181 | ISBN: 0718830601
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NHBS Price: £12.75 $17/€14 approx

About this book

Where do scientific terms come from? Why are they so similar in so many languages? How was the new nomenclature spread across the world? The Language of Science analyses the development of scientific vocabulary from its basic origins in everyday agricultural work, through to the need for a measurement system when it came to trading, to the scientific innovations of the seventeenth century and a subsequent period of consolidation in the eighteenth century.

This is a period of great relevance in history of science and a strong focus of Crosland's work. The time between 1750 and 1800 saw many movements trying to organise and revolutionise scientific names and units - the significance of which is often overlooked. Crosland talks here about the development of language in botany, chemistry and the metric system, drawing a connection between the three fields and the development of the sciences in general. The final chapter pays close attention to how the international conferences helped in the adoption and standardisation of the new language.

Crosland's approach to the subject matter is very clear and concise. The Language of Science will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about history of language, social history and of course science. The author popularises an often intimidating and complex segment of the English language. Scientists and non-scientists alike will find this book stimulating and thought-provoking.


Preface & Introduction 1. The language of science in the eighteenth century. The need for a specific language of science. A connected series of developments. The eighteenth century. The language of science. From the vernacular to the technical. 2. The language of botany. The beginnings of botany. Herbals. Common names for plants. Latin names. Predecessors of Linnaeus. The botanical nomenclature of Linnaeus. After Linnaeus. 3. The language of chemistry. Chemistry before Lavoisier. Old names and the beginning of reform. Lavoisier and the 'chemical revolution'. The influence of Condillac on Lavoisier. The Method of chemical nomenclature. Acceptance of the new names. 4. The metric language. Old measures. Early stages of reform. The Commission of weights and measures. Explaining the metric system to the public. Decimalisation. Adoption of the metric system. 5. International conferences. The problem of international authority. The Metric Conference of 1798. From international co-operation to conferences. The Karlsruhe Congress. Other international conferences.

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Maurice Pierre Crosland has lectured on the History of Science at the University of Leeds and several leading American universities. For twenty years he was Director of the Unit for the History of Science at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He has a lifelong interest in scientific language, and has served as Honorary Editor of the British Journal for the History of Science and President of the British Society for the History of Science.

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