Women Translators of Science


Women Translators of Science

Level 5, Room 553
Arts West

Parkville campus

Booking not required

Starting from an analysis of the remarkable surge in female writing in Britain in the second half of the 18th century, this talk aims to draw a picture of women’s popularisation of scientific thought by means of two case studies. The first concerns Giuseppa Eleonora Barbapiccola’s Italian translation of Descartes’ Les Principes de la Philosophie (1722). The second is Elizabeth Carter’s English translation of an Italian treatise on Newton’s optics, Algarotti’s Newtonianismo per le Dame (1737), which became in fact a handbook for women as a result of the translator’s intervention. In both cases women translators 'mediated' scientific texts that needed to be presented in a fresh light in order to reach a new potential readership: their works can possibly be considered as having at least the same cultural import as original writing. In this light text production combines the idea of individual agency with the cultural dynamics that mould it. Not only does this perspective emphasise that meaning is open to negotiation, but it also highlights the creativity of the activities involved in translation as a fundamental means of disseminating knowledge.

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