Hydrogen Oxygenovich: Crafting Russian as a language of science in the late nineteenth century

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Until the 1860s, science in Russia was principally conducted in Latin, French, and German. In the years leading up to and following the creation of the Russian Chemical Society in 1868, Russian chemists - treated in this article as both a representative sample of Russian scientists and also practitioners of the flagship science of the period - debated both the merits of developing a nomenclature that would enable Russian to "hold" modern inorganic and organic chemistry, and the practicability of doing so. The article explores debates over whether Russian syntax could be adapted to represent chemical compounds according to emerging western conventions or in a sui generis manner, as well as the struggles of Russian scientists to use French and German to communicate with their foreign counterparts, arguing that the details of these debates highlight both the fruitfulness and the limits of using "standardization" as a framework for linguistic codification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-437
Number of pages21
JournalHistory of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Chemical nomenclature
  • Dmitrii Mendeleev
  • Language
  • Russian language
  • Standardization


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