The translation of scientific literature from German into Spanish at the turn of the 20th century

Maria Pilar Castillo Bernal


In the last decades English has become the undisputed lingua franca of scientific and technical communication. This has not always been the case and it is well documented that scientific production used to be shared among German, French and English up to the beginning of the 20th century (Baethge, 2008, p. 37). This paper looks at scientific literature written in German by means of analysing translated papers published in Spanish journals. A traditional recipient of German research, the Spanish scientific community relied on translations in order to keep up with the swift progress of the so-called Natural Sciences at the turn of the century. Thus, Spanishwas the first language into which Freud’s complete works were translated (Martin & Gallego, 2011, p. 309). Following prior research on science and translation (Montgomery, 2000; Olohan & Salama-Carr, 2011; Byrne, 2014), this study explores the works of translated scientists (German-Spanish) in the fields of microbiology and biochemistry in the 19th century. The aim is to ascertain which scientific articles and topics were translated and published in Spanish at the time, to analyse textual features of the genre and translation techniques applied to them. The results also offer some points for comparison with current scientific translation. This work also aims to highlight the long-standing role of translation in the dissemination of specialised knowledge.


history of science, translated papers, German researchers

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