When I started teaching Latin at Hackensack High School, the motto in the school seal was one item about which I was asked. The translation was obvious, but actually studying the grammar of the words revealed an annoying problem: the phrase "scientia terras irradumus" did not make sense from the point of view of Latin grammar. There was something wrong with the verb "irradumus"--in classical Latin it would be better as "radiamus" but even in later Latin irradiare is a first conjugation verb and so the form should be "irradiamus" not "irradumus" as was in the school seal. This problem bothered me for many years, but today, August 8, 2000, I see what happened. Recently, I have been scanning parts of yearbooks for our www page and I noticed the evolution of the phrase in the school seal. It was particularly significant for this question from 1911 until 1931. Here are the seals produced on the yearbooks I found from these years.

1911 yearbook cover

1919 yearbook cover

1923 yearbook cover

1925 yearbook cover

1931 yearbook at page 65

seal AD 2000

seal AD 2001 !
Special Thanks to Mr Jeff Faherty for the printed seal and to Miss Sonya Kypreos and Mr Joseph LaMattina for the painted seal.

The evolution of the quill error. Or from "irradiamus" to "irradumus"!

1911 close-up

1919 close-up

1923 close-up

1925 close-up

1931 close-up

1999 close-up

seal January 2001!

The damage is done! Research into the years from 1925 through 1931 should be interesting. The 1929 yearbook has the seal on every page, but the only copy I have been able to find at the high school is a xerox copy of the book and the quality is too poor to discern if the change had yet been made. The 1930 yearbook, while one of the most elegant, does not seem to have any copy of the seal in it.

The grammar of the phrase is pretty simple. IRRADIAMUS is first person plural, present indicative active "we irradiate" while TERRAS is a first declension noun and accusative plural meaning "the earth" or "lands" and SCIENTIA is a first declension noun in the ablative singular meaning "with knowledge." (IRRADUMUS is a non-form!) Note that Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged (c.d. 1957), at page 1312, states that the English word "irradiate" comes from irradiatus the past participle of irradiare meaning to irradiate.

Those guilty of letting this mistake pass are those who knew (or should have known) better! In particular the Latin teachers at Hackensack High School at the end of the 1920's and the beginning of the 1930's. (QUI TACIT CONSENTIRE.) [Actually, Pope Boniface VIII wrote "Qui tacet consentire videtur."]
They are:

Martha M. Hazen, A.B., Mount Holyoke
Ada C. Fritts, A.B., Cornell
Bertha L. Field, Ph.B., Syracuse
Margerite Leffingwell, B.A., University of Chicago
Muriel Kennedy, B.A., M.A., Smith College

— Robert Kern Curtis

From an email I received today (February 8, 2001), a classmate who was a year ahead of me in "college" writes:

Actually, "irradumus" is part of a late Latin verb "irradummare" which means "We are irritatingly stupid." It appears in the plays by the Medieval nun Hildegarde of Grumpf who was beatified by Fiftus VI but the miracles she supposedly worked were practical jokes on the overly pious. Her cause never advanced and her very existence was denied by Pio Nono. This was otiose on his part because the texts of her plays are extant, though they were suppressed in the 18th century because of their irreverence. It has been rumored that her play about indulgences was lifted bodily by Mel Brooks for "The Producers."

No connection, of course, to its appearance on your school seal which is probably the work of a deranged printer's apprentice.

— Peter Matthews (Senior Latin teacher, Fordham Prep, 1964-1967)