Aphra Behn as a scientific translator

‘No Tincture of Learning?’: Aphra Behn as (Re)Writer and Translator

Alison Martin (University of Reading; Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg) recently gave a lecture at UCL on the seventeenth-century writer Aphra Behn (1640-89) as a scientific translator. Behn was one of the foremost female writers and translators in Europe of her time. Best known as the author of the short novel Oroonoko (1688), she was also an energetic translator and produced English renderings of classical and contemporary authors, not least Bernard de Fontenelle’s work on astronomy, the Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes (1686), which appeared as A Discovery of New Worlds two years later. In this lecture Alison explores how Behn styled herself as a female translator of early scientific writing, before comparing her with British women working in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who similarly contributed to the ‘feminisation’ of science and the circulation of scientific knowledge to a wider readership through their translation activities.

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