Senior readers will recall that in North America (USA/Canada) it was required to show a reading knowledge of another language besides English in order to complete the academic requirements for a PhD in basic sciences. It is no longer necessary now in physics and chemistry but other top notch universities like Harvard still have this requirement for a PhD in mathematics. For chemists studying electrochemistry, Russian was recommended, but for organic chemistry German was beneficial. Undoubtedly, German had the largest compendium of handbooks, factual information etc in pure sciences. Gmelin and Beilstein Handbuch were one of the largest databases in chemistry and they still are in the form of Reaxys (A database in Elsevier) since the mid 1700s.
I was writing an educational article encouraging students to explore foreign language publications in chemistry with the help of online tools. A reviewer asked if there is any knowledge difference between those who knew foreign languages and those who did not. This is a very subjective idea.
Do those that have to learn a foreign language for their PhD, especially in sciences, really benefit from being able to read foreign language paper/book/ database/patents?
(I am especially interested in German, French or Russian language literature for research in math, physics or chemistry.)