Ludwik Lejze Zamenhof

(Bialystok, december 15, 1859 – Warsaw April 14, 1917), linguist, is the creator of Esperanto, the most successfulconstructed language designed for international communication. Oculist, soon after graduation from school he began to study medicine, first in Moscow, and later in Warsaw. In 1885, Zamenhof graduated from a university.


Cultural background

Bialystok was in the Russian Empire (now part of Poland). He considered his native language to be his father's Russian, but he also spoke his mother's Yiddish natively; he spoke more Polish. His father Mordechai was a teacher of German, and he also spoke that language fluently. Later he learned French, Lathin, Greek, Hebrew, and English, and had an interest inItalian, Spanish and Lithuanian.

In addition to the Yiddish-speaking Jewish majority, the population of BiaƂystok was made up of three other ethnic groups: Poles, Germans, and Belarusians. Zamenhof was saddened and frustrated by the many quarrels among these groups. He supposed that the main reason for the hate and prejudice lay in the mutual misunderstanding caused by the lack of one common Language. If such a language existed, Zamenhof postulated, it could play the role of a neutral communication tool between people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.

By 1878, his project Lingwe uniwersala was almost finished, but Zamenhof was too young to publish his work. He published a booklet describing the language when he received the financial help from his future wife's father. In 1887, the book titled Lingvo internacia: (International language) was published in Russian under the pseudonym "Doktoro Esperanto" (Doctor Hopeful), from which the name of the language derives.

For Zamenhof this language, far from being merely a communication tool, was a way of promoting the peaceful coexistence of different people and cultures.

Besides his medical and linguistic work, Zamenhof published a religious philosophy called Homaranismo (loosely translated as humanitarianism).

Zamenhof thought that the linguistic diversity is the main reason of disunity among mankind. Since greek and latin are too archaic and difficult, Lajzer excluded national languages as international mean of communication. He was instead convinced that the best choice was planning a new language. “When the peoples will understand each other, they will stop hating each other”

The Esperanto international language respects and protects all languages. Everyone speaks the preferred language, the planned language is neutral and has an auxiliary function among different people. It favors peaceful coexistence and communication.

In his letter, he said: "I am profoundly convinced that every nationalism offers humanity only the greatest unhappiness...



Zamenhof and his wife Klara raised three children, a son, Adam, and two daughters, Sofia and Lidia. All three died in the Holocaust.

Lidia Zamenhof in particular took a keen interest in Esperanto, and as an adult became a teacher of the language, traveling through Europe and to America to teach classes in it. Lidia became a member of the Bahá’í Faith. As one of its social principles, the Bahá’í faith teaches that an auxiliary world language should be selected by the representatives of all the world's nations.

Esperanto is the only artificial language that has become so diffused: is estimated between five and fifteen million the number of people who studied it, although those who make regular use of esperanto are probably only a percentage, difficult to estimate”.

Among the many works (original poems and translated: Heine, Dickens, Shakespeare, Gogol, Schiller, Goethe) Zamenhof translated into Esperanto the Old Testament.

After Word War Zamehof wrote “Appeal to the diplomatic” (1915) in which he asked to take account of the minorities during the negotiations.


Honours and namesakes.

In 1910, Zamenhof was nominated for the Nobel peace Prize, by four British Members of Parliament (includingJames O'GradyPhilip Snowden) and Professor Stanley Lane Poole. (The Prize was instead awarded to theInternational Peace Bureau.) On the occasion of the 5th Universala Kongreso de Esperanto in Barcelona, Zamenhof was made a Commander of the Order of Isabellathe Catholic by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

The minor planet (1462) Zamenhof is named in his honor. It was discovered on February 6, 1938, by Yrjö Väisälä.Also, hundreds of city streets, parks, and bridges worldwide have been named after Zamenhof. In Lithuania, the best-known Zamenhof Street is in Kaunas, where he lived and owned a house for some time. There are Zamenhof streets in Lithuania, France, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain (mostly in Catalonia), Italy, Israel, and Brazil. There are Zamenhof Hills in Hungary and Brazil, and a Zamenhof Island in the Danube River. Eliezer Zamenhof street in Tel Aviv.


Google and the anniversary

In December 15th, 2009, Google modified its logo as a tribute to the anniversary of the birth of Zamenhof, affixing the Esperanto flag in place of the “L” letter of the word “Google” in the web site version of 36 languages in 33 nations.


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