Basic characters for scientific publications

Hi. I would like to ask if there is a list of characters that should be used in a typeface for also scientific publications? I would like to add to a typeface with only the most commonly used characters in such publications. Are there perhaps any other characters I should add if the typeface will also have Greek and Cyrillic?

Comments

  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 489
    edited September 2
    Interesting question, but 'scientific publications' is perhaps a bit broadly phrased. Coming from the social sciences, I can tell you that I don't need more than what a pretty standard character set already provides (italics are a must though). A Greek alphabet is nice for formula's occasionally. Things are probably very different in other fields.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,160
    Different branches of science have different needs, so it is difficult to generalise, but I would say that a full set of Greek letters is advisable since these are used as symbols in a variety of sciences, and a complete set of superscript and subscript numerals is needed. A selection of arrows is useful for indicating transformations, but you need to check which Unicode arrows are used in publications for particular sciences. At least some mathematical operators and symbols are going to be needed to almost any science, but determining the exact set—and what kind of support should be provided for complex equations—depends on the nature of the font and its intended use. If you are only targeting things like inline chemical formulae, and not equation layout, then the minimum sets I suggest here might be enough.

    The STIX Two Math font that we developed for the Scientific, Technical and Information Publishing consortium (STI Pub) contains a huge number of symbols, but some are rare, some are technical rather than scientific, and some are miscellaneous inclusions from providing complete coverage of Unicode blocks.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,735
    edited September 2
    Is there a technical way for a font to “recommend” another font to supply missing characters? Across foundries, even, perhaps accessing an open source source.

    But even for one foundry, it would be useful to provide a font with a generic set of science/maths symbols that would extend the functionality of fonts with basic character sets. Like in the old days. That would give the foundry some control over appropriate style, weight and proportion of the auxiliary glyphs. 
    It would certainly be easier to link fonts than copy and paste science/math characters.

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,160
    It is possible to define virtual fonts on many systems, such that different character subsets are drawn from multiple fonts, but can appear in a menu as if they are a single font. But there isn’t a way for a font to specify or recommend with what fonts they should be combined in this way: it is up to the user. Similarly, in CSS a user can define a font stack in such a way that specific fonts are used for Unicode characters and ranges.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,735
    Well then, if virtual fonts may not be enacted at foundry level, then generic math/science extension is a job for font editing software.
  • I don't know if I would call math and science extensions 'generic'. Just as with any other typographic setting, it is nice if everything works together, also in scientific journals.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,735
    edited September 2
    Generic, in the sense that a glyph may work perfectly well in several fonts.
    That was how fractions, for instance, were supplied in metal fonts.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,160
    An open source variable UFO under the Apache 2.0 license with adjustable weight and proportion could be used to generate symbol glyphs that could be decently balanced with a variety of typeface styles.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,785
    An open source variable UFO under the Apache 2.0 license with adjustable weight and proportion could be used to generate symbol glyphs that could be decently balanced with a variety of typeface styles.

    Paging @Dave Crossland—maybe Google could commission a math and symbol font that covers weight, width, and contrast axes.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,090
    edited September 3
    When converting their Type 1 font library to OpenType, Adobe filled in the former “Symbol substitution” characters in very much the fashion that John suggests. (Except for the Adobe Originals, which got hand-crafted glyphs instead of auto-generated ones.)

    A number of aspects of this were covered by two patents, filed in 1999, which should therefore have expired in 2019, if I follow these things correctly.
    https://patents.justia.com/patent/6678410
    https://patents.justia.com/patent/6760029

    A more sophisticated version of this approach was introduced by  https://www.fauxfoundry.com/ to add virtual Greek support, that is much better than generic fallbacks, to existing fonts.
  • As @John Hudson wrote it depends on the branch of science. For most you need Greek letters which are used for enumeration or naming of variants (botany, zoology, chemistry, pharmacy) and in mathematics.

    Botany uses botanical symbols which come from the alchemistic symbols for the planets but also invented additional ones. Botany uses accented Latin for scientific names, zoology plain a-z. Both use '×'  U+00D7  MULTIPLICATION SIGN (Math_Symbol) for hybrids. They also use the fullwidth variants of mathematical operators for inline formulas, e. g. for measurements.

    Linguists use IPA (no surprise).

    Superscript, subscript, smallcaps, bold, italic.

    Mathematics, informations sciences and technical reports use a large set of math symbols. Which serious scientific text has no mathematical part? They also have often pseudocode which needs a fixed width font.
  • I've been told (I forget by whom) that a scholarly font needs not only superscript numbers but also superscript lowercase letters, parentheses, and a dash, in order to typeset complex crossreferences.
    It's also been a longstanding wish of mine to include IPA support in one of my Google Fonts (I think Ysabeau would make the most sense). I believe there are currently very few Google Fonts suitable for linguistic work.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,160
    I've been told (I forget by whom) that a scholarly font needs not only superscript numbers but also superscript lowercase letters, parentheses, and a dash, in order to typeset complex crossreferences.
    That’s more the case in humanities scholarship, I think, and specifically textual apparatus of critical editions. In sciences, superscripts and subscripts are most common in equations, but those quickly get more complicated than a simply linear layout model can support.

  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 317
    edited September 3
    A dozen replies and nobody has mentioned Donald Knuth and TeX yet!... I think he is still alive, was professor of Mathematics at Stanford I think. He is / was a legend in the 70/80's/90's - not being happy with how publishers printed his works, he invented the whole Metafont / TeX etc to publish his work in. TeX. / LaTeX was the standard in scientific publications in Maths / Physics / Engineering for a few decades until perhaps maybe 10/15 years ago.

    There are a few maths / symbol fonts under TeX / LaTeX - and they are gradually being converted to type 1, truetype etc. Seeing what glyphs they have may be a good start. E.g. The maths and etc symbols in the Computer Modern Roman font.

    I don't know what's the current authoritative web site for TeX / LaTeX matters - it comes with Linux as optional installs. "Comprehensive TeX Archive Network" (ctan) - at www.ctan.org . And perhaps "TeXLive" (the most popular bundle these days) is another.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,653
    edited September 3
    A dozen replies and nobody has mentioned Donald Knuth and TeX yet!
    What does that have to do with the question...?
    (Do you mean to say a scientific font should be in MathFont format so as to be usable in LaTeX?)
  • As it has been mentioned before, the answer to the question much depends on what scope of subjects one wishes to adress. There is no general answer like “one to rule them all”.
    • For linguistics you are likely to require phonetic characters, but which set? There are several beyond basic IPA. Also several transliteration standards may have to be taken into account.
    • For medieaval studies you need special char. sets, may it be Latin abbreviations or special Norse characters, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Runic, Ogham, Old High-German, whatsoever.
    • For historic economic works one may be in need of special historic currency and measurement characters, only some of them having an official Unicode.
    • In botany you need a peculiar char. set as well as in genealogy or alchemy- or astrology-related matters. All very special.
    • In antiquity studies the most peculiar ancient (dead) script systems may become relevant, far beyond Greek or Hebrew.
    • Pray you never face the need to cater for early music notation studies.
    • For chemistry you need decent superscript and subscript character sets of course; what else?
    • A solid support for mathematical notation is a universe of its own, I guess you’ll have to dive very deeply into the higher insights of a community specialised in that subject.
    Just my 2 pc.
  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 317
    edited September 4
    A dozen replies and nobody has mentioned Donald Knuth and TeX yet!
    What does that have to do with the question...?
    (Do you mean to say a scientific font should be in MathFont format so as to be usable in LaTeX?)
    It is in the middle of my reply: you can use the glyph list from the Computer Modern Roman font as a starting point, given that it has proved useful and the standard for scientific publications in maths/physics/engineering for a few decades.

    Maybe I have assumed certain associations are common knowledge: Donald Knuth - TeX - MetaFont - Computer Modern Roman font (which is the main font he designed with MetaFont and used in TeX)
  • Use the glyph list from Computer Modern Roman https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Modern
  • KP MawhoodKP Mawhood Posts: 234
    TeX. / LaTeX was the standard in scientific publications in Maths / Physics / Engineering for a few decades until perhaps maybe 10/15 years ago.
    Can confirm it's still the standard for many large publishers… not sure what else they could use unless it's published directly to the web. TeX and STEM are fairly intertwined.

    It's very normal to typeset the math and specialist symbols in another typeface, which can limit the commonly used char requirements to linear text needs. Which then reverts to the question: what makes a good typeface for academic typesetting?

    Separately, type variants for blocks of code are frequently needed and rarely harmonised with the text typeface (for better or worse). By way of example:


  • It may be noted that for some programming languages, including ALGOL and Pascal, it is the general practice to use a normal proportional typeface for specimens of code in the "reference language". That is, ALGOL with all the special symbols, or Pascal with variable names in italics and reserved words/keywords in bold.
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