The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)–a pioneer in terminology work


Click to visit IEC’s website

Founded in 1906, the IEC is the world’s leading organization that prepares and publishes international standards for electrotechnology. It was preceded by the International Electrical Congress, which by the 1880s was already making the first attempts to regulate international terminology in the technological field “to establish the use of certain terms for ‘electrical resistance’ and ‘electromotive force’ in different countries and for the preparation and publication of international standards in electrical, electronic and related technologies, today known as ‘electrotechnology.’1

The IEC prepared a six-language International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (IEV) –one of the oldest ordered terminologies– that contained terms and definitions on electrotechnology. According to Angela Campo, from 1928 to 1937, Eugen Wüster helped in its design, compilation, use, and evaluation, as part of a committee that met once or twice a year to select new terms and write their definitions. Today, you can consult their “Electropedia”, available online in 18 languages (click here to access). It currently includes more than 20.000 terms and definitions in approximately 90 subject areas.

The first edition of the IEV was published before World War II and a second edition was published after the War in separate brochures. The IEC explains in its website that they are “the leading global organization that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services…” You can consult the IEC Standards here. They are produced under the responsibility of IEC Technical Committee 1 (Terminology), one of the 174 IEC technical committees.

This is just another example of the key role that organizations like the IEC have played in the consolidation of Terminology as a science and a professional career.

Sources and further reading:

1/   Campo, Angela. The Reception of Eugen Wüster’s Work and the Development of Terminology. Université de Montreal. (October 2012).

Image source: IEC’s website.

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