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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Latin was crucial to natural philosophy, mathematics, medicine, chemistry, and natural history in late medieval and Renaissance Europe. University professors lectured in Latin, scholars wrote treatises and commentaries in it, and the international Republic of Letters communicated in it. Latin was not the exclusive language of early modern science: especially in subjects connected to courtly and urban culture, vernacular works played a role. Nonetheless, Latin dominated. The ancient Greek works that lay at the foundation of physics, mathematics, medicine, and natural history were translated into Latin so that they could reach a wide audience. And vernacular works were also translated into Latin for an international readership. Even as more and more scientific works were published in vernaculars after 1650, Latin retained a role well into the eighteenth century. Today it remains the universal language for biological taxonomy.

Keywords: science, natural philosophy, natural history, mathematics, physics, chemistry, medicine, translation, Greek

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