50 Years Ago
It seems to be generally agreed that the standard of self-expression in spoken and written English among sixth-form and undergraduate scientists and technologists is low. Various causes have been blamed ... but in all the diagnoses and cures I have seen so far, all the emphasis has been on past failures by English experts and future remedies to be administered by other English experts. It is not my intention to dissociate English teachers from the problem altogether ... but I want to suggest that scientists and technologists themselves must take most of the responsibility for the low standards of self-expression in their professions, and that a major change of outlook on their part is the only thing that can bring a substantial improvement in the situation.
From Nature 1 December 1962
100 Years Ago
Biologische und morphologische Untersuchungen über Wasser- und Sumpfgewächse. By Prof. H. Glück — Prof. Glück has produced a portentous volume on the riparian flora, forming the third instalment of his work on water and swamp plants. Frankly, we do not find justification for the 600 or more pages of his book, and we fancy most readers who have been in the habit of using their eyes when observing or collecting plants will find but little to reward them for the trouble of its perusal ... No doubt a work of this kind possesses some value, but, as it appears to us, it excellently illustrates the truth of the saying that the secret of dullness lies in the attempt to write all one knows. Prof. Glück gives the impression (perhaps unjustly) that he has written all he knows about his subject, and certainly he has jotted down a good deal that is already very familiar to others.
From Nature 28 November 1912
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50 & 100 Years Ago. Nature 491, 676 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/491676a