Friday, June 12, 2015

Esperanto and the Sciences

Some things never
change. That headline
could be current.
Virgil C. Dibble was not a scientist. When he wrote a letter to the magazine The Outlook, he was probably by the a salesman for a map publisher. He was, however, a fervent support of Esperanto, and so when the first Pan-American Scientific Congress took up the question of Esperanto, Dibble was not going to let the editor of The Outlook remain in the dark on this, especially as The Outlook had written about the congress.

The Outlook was, according to Wikipedia one of the leading news and opinion magazines of its day, beaten out (perhaps) only by The Independent and The Nation (of these three, only the Nation is still around). Dibble’s piece was not one of their bits of news and essays, but instead was in a section (at the back of the issue) under the heading of “Public Opinion,” appearing on the fourth and final full page of that section in the June 12, 1909 issue. It’s a letter to the editor. The only letter after that is on how English place and family names retain spellings that are no longer indicative of their pronunciation. After that it’s advertisements, with a charming advertisement for Porosknit summer underwear two pages later (a dollar for a summer-weight union suit). (Lest you think it’s all about forgotten products, the bottom of the page after Dibble’s letter contains advertisement for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and Borden’s evaporated milk).

I haven’t been able determine how many Pan-American Scientific Congresses have been held (or if they’re a going concern). There were at least eight, since Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at it in 1940. The first was one of those tentative steps toward globalization, since it’s clear that the First Pan-American Scientific Congress was the successor to the Third Latin-American Scientific Congress. But if you were going to gather scientists from across the Americas, just would they speak? Admittedly, the Spanish speakers would probably be the most numerous, but I suspect there was a difficulty in convincing Americans to go be a majority vote.

Dibble’s letter to The Outlook largely consisted of getting the word out of a resolution passed at that event:
Permit me to commend the excellent appreciation of the work of the first Pan-American Scientific Congress which appears in The Outlook of May 8 under the title “A New Phase of Pan-Americanism.” It was a well-deserved and timely report of the deliberations of a body of great dignity and importance, which had nevertheless received scant notice from the daily press. But one act of this Congress, which to me as to many other Americans, seems to rank as the most significant on its record, your article does not even hint at. On January 4 the Congress adopted the following resolutions:
Considering that the Esperanto language is a human blessing, practically used by thousands of people in all the civilized nations; and that it is a factor which aims toward the adoption of the ideal of human happiness, and is therefore of special interest to America, the future field of action of the two great civilizations (Spanish-speaning and English-speaking) which confront each other politically and commercially, the first Pan-American Scientific Congress recommends Esperanto as a neutral international language which deserves an important piece in the programs of primary instruction of the American nations.

Considering that a neutral auxiliary international language is necessary, and observing that the idiom Esperanto fulfills the requirements, that it is already sufficiently widespread throughout the world, and the official propaganda alone is lacking:

(1) The First Pan-American Scientific Congress decides to express to the American Governments the pleasure with which it would view the call for a Congress, to which would come official representatives of all civilized countries, with the purpose of solving the problem of the adoption of a neutral international auxiliary idiom; and

(2) It agrees to urge upon the Government of the United Staes of North America that, under its grand auspices, this desire of the Scientific Congress may be effected.
It not the declaration of such a body that Esperanto deserves an important place in our programmes of primary instruction, and that it favors the calling of an international idol, worthy of a place in the summary of its deliberations? I believe that, as fair-minded men, you and your readers will agree to this.
V. C. Dibble, Jr.
Charleston, South Carolina
In 1910 the Bureau of American Republics issued a report on Esperanto in the Bulletin of of the International Bureau of the American Republics. Was the Bureau of American Republics involved in the Pan-American Scientific Congress? Was this John Barrett’s one contribution to the Esperanto movement. The report goes on to predict that the Sixth World Esperanto Congress would give an further impetus to Esperanto. The BAR concluded:
the practical advantages of Esperanto in trade relations while soon be thoroughly appreciated by the most progressive business houses of the western world.
In the end, despite Virgil Dibble cheering the Esperanto movement on, this did not signal Esperanto becoming the international language of commerce and science. Not yet, at least.

Of course you get the underwear ad. How could I deprive you of that?

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