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Contributors
to the
Universal Language


Persons, books or events, which have played a curious role in the history of the idea of the Universal Language, will be listed. Useful references, Cajori, Knowlson, Rossi, Yaguello. Especially, I quoted many phrases from Cajori, as the idea of the Universal Language often goes with a special interest in mathematical notations ; in the 17th century Europe, arithmetical and algebraic symbols are taken for a model of universality, simplicity and certainty (they were not so universal, simple nor certain as expected, however. Through the interrelation with the idea of the Universal language, these notations acquired their advantages).



1295. Raimundus Lullus (Ramon Llull) (1232-1316),

Arbre de sciència, Rome.


The title means "Tree of Science".

1532. François Rabelais (1494?-1553),

Pantagruel roy des Dipsodes, Lyon.


The Second Book of Rabelais, published before The First Book (1534). Thomas Urquhart (see below) translated those two books into English.
Full of word-playing and greatly word-conscious ; For example, see the multilingual conversation (Italian, Scotch, Basque, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, Danish, Latin, and Rabelaisian) in Chap. 9. Or the non-verbal public debate (by obscene gesture) in Chap. 18 and 19.

A note in Japanese.

1570. John Dee (1527-1608),

'Mathematicall Preface' to The Elements of Geometrie of the most auncient Philosopher Euclide of Megara, London.


That was the first English translation of The Elements of Euclid (by Henry Billingsley), subtitled,
"With a very fruitfull Preface by M. I. Dee, specifying the chiefe Mathematicall Science, what they are, and whereunto commodious : where, also, are disclosed certaine new Secrets Mathematicall and Mechanicall, vntill these our daies, greatly missed." (Heath, 1925, Vol.1, p.109.)

Dee is also important for his Monas Hieroglyphica (Antwerp, 1564).

1582. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600),

De umbris idearum...Ad internam scripturam, & non vulgares per memoriam operationes explicatis, Paris.


Known as "Shadows of Idea".
(to monad)

1591. Franciscus Vieta (1540-1603),

In artem analyticen Isagoge, Tours.


"In Vieta's 'general analytic' this symbolic concept of 'number' appears for the first time, namely in the form of the species. It lies at the origin of that direct route which leads, via the 'characteristica universalis' of Leibniz, straight to modern theories of 'logistic' (i.e., that branch of symbolic logic dealing with the foundations of mathematics)." ( Klein, 1968.)

1630. Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588-1638),

Encyclopaedia, Herborn, Prussia.


A simplified system of the universal knowledge, strongly influenced by Ramism.

1631. William Oughtred (1574-1660),

Clavis mathematicae, London.


"William Oughtred placed unusual emphasis upon the use of mathematical symbols. his symbol for multiplication, his notation for proportion, and his sign for difference met with wide adoption in Continental Europe as well as Great Britain. He used as many as one hundred and fifty symbols, many of which were, of course, introduced by earlier writers." (Cajori, 1993, paragraph 180.)

1634, 1644. Pierre Hérigone (17th century),

Cursus mathematicus, nova, brevi, et clara methodo demonstratus, per notas reales et universales, citra usum cujuscunque idiomatis intellectu faciles, Paris.


"A full recognition of the importance of notation and an almost reckless eagerness to introduce an exhaustive set of symbols is exhibited in the Cursus mathematicus of Pierre Hérigone, in six volumes, in Latin and French,..." (Cajori, 1993, paragraph 189.)

1652. Francis Lodwick (17th century),

The Groundwork or Foundation Laid (or so Intended) for the Framing of a New Perfect Language and an Universall or Common Writing, London.

1653. Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660),

Logopandecteision, or An Introduction to the Universal Language, London.

1657. John Wallis (1616-1703),

Mathesis universalis : sive, Arithmeticum opus integrum, London.

1657-1659. Kaspar Schott (1606-1666),

Magia universalis naturae et artis opus quadripartitum, Wurzburg.

1661. Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld (1605-1655),

Alphabeti philosophici libri tres, Vol. 1 of Bisterfeldius redivivus, 2 vols., Leiden.


Bisterfeld's metaphysical and logical idea on the encyclopedic knowledge and of universal harmony, based on precise definitions (philosophical alphabet) and the use of the ars combinatoria, greatly effected on Leibniz. (cf. the article by Hans Aarsleff in Dictionary of Scientific Biography.)

1661. George Dalgarno (1626-1687),

Ars Signorum, vulgo Character universalis et lingua philosophica..., London.

1666. G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716),

Dissertatio de Arte Combinatoria, Leipzig.


(cf. Knobloch)

1668. John Wilkins (1614-1672),

An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, London.

1669. Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680),

Ars magna sciendi sive Combinatoria, Amsterdam.

1765. Leibniz,

Oeuvres philosophiques, latines et françaises, de feu Mr. de Leibniz , ed. by R. E. Raspe, Amsterdam and Leipzig.


The first collected works published 49 years after his death.
Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain (written in 1704) appeared for the first time.

1797. Joseph de Maimieux (18th century),

Pasigraphie, ou premiers elemens du nouvel art-science d'ecrire et d'imprimer en une langue de maniere a etre lu et entendu dans toute autre langue sans traduction, Paris.

1879-1880. J. M. Schleyer (1831-1912),

Invented Volapuk, Germany.

1887. Lazarus L. Zamenhof (1859-1917),

Invented Esperanto based on Volapuk, Poland.

1903. Giuseppe Peano (1858-1932),

Invented Interlingua, Italy.


"In his Formulaire de mathématiques, the first volume of which appeared at Turin in 1895, Peano announces confidently a realization of the project set by Leibniz in 1666, namely, the creation of a universal script in which all composite ideas expressed by means of conventional signs of simple ideas, according to fixed rules." (Cajori, 1993, paragraph 688.)

1907-1909. Louis Couturat (1868-1914),

Invented Ido based on Esperanto, France.

Couturat, famous for his book on Leibniz's logic, also wrote a big book on the history of the universal language.

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