The Albert B. Sabin Digitization Project: Lost in Translation

Being both a well-known scientist and a world traveler, Dr. Sabin’s collection of correspondence reflects many different parts of the world with letters in Russian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, and more. As we move into the next phase of the Sabin digitization project, I will begin to look at the correspondence more closely, determining the important messages within each letter and assigning descriptive data (also known as metadata) to the letters so researchers can more easily search the material. In order to do this, I may need some help with those letters in foreign languages.

Here’s a recent example of a letter in a foreign language, as well as its background:

Letter from Dr. Hallauer to Dr. Sabin, 1957

While processing some of Dr. Sabin’s correspondence in the “Professional Affiliations and Memberships” series, I came across some letters while he was the co-editor of the Archiv für die Gesamte Virusforschung (now referred to as the Archives of Virology). This letter is from Dr. Curt Hallauer, one of the editors of the journal, who was located in Switzerland. As you may know, one official language of Switzerland is German, so some of Dr. Hallauer’s correspondence is in his native language.

Although I took German classes throughout high school and college, I haven’t used it since 2003, so I am quite rusty. There are several tools out there that can help with the translation of this letter and others, but sometimes they are not the most reliable. So, I am making a call to all of our readers out there… if you can translate from a foreign language to English and are willing to donate some of your time to the Winkler Center, I would greatly welcome your help! Please feel free to contact me at if you are interested in helping out, even just helping to translate a letter or two. If you have a scientific background, that’s a plus, since many of the letters are related to virus research throughout the world. Looking forward to hearing from you!

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $314,258 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Dr. Albert B. Sabin. This digitization project has been designated a NEH “We the People” project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.