Through the presentation of the case of the first full Hungarian translation of The Origin of Species (in the translation of Laszlo Dapsy, 1873/74, Budapest), the talk will focus on the early history of the translation and reception of Darwinism in Hungary, conceptualizing translation not merely as a medium of transfer, but also a meeting point where the barriers of language and science and culture cross each other. Taking into account the relevance of the literary value of translation for scientific texts, where translations become cultural products, and texts can acquire altered, new meanings as the translators relocate the books and repossess the texts, the presentation will engage with the various ways cultural relocation is manifested not only through the new language and place of publication, but also by the interventions by the translator(s), the publisher(s), or other readers. Special attention will be given to the role of the translator as facilitator within the scientific community and as an important link between the author and the public readership. Due to the social and political circumstances of the era, the Darwinian narrative, especially in the new form it gains in translation, plays a crucial role in the development of scientific language, and thus of the re/formation of the scientific community. Just as important is, however, the reception, or even transformation of scientific ideas by those outside of the less than precise boundaries of the scientific community, and the circulation of these ideas among intellectuals and the less educated only to find apparently “inappropriate" audiences, unforeseen or unexpected readers who re/appropriate terms and narratives for reinterpretation.
Katalin Straner is currently a doctoral candidate (ABD) at the Department of History at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. She has held fellowships at the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine (University College London) and Harvard University. Her dissertation is on the Hungarian reception of the works of Charles Darwin between the 1850s and the 1880s, and she is interested in the cultures of translation, reception, and transfer of scientific ideas in culture and society.