From a footnote on page 69 of Seth Lloyd’s new book Programming the Universe (about which more later):
I happened to be in [Nobel Laureate Norman Ramsey’s office in Paris] when two members of the Academie Francaise came to call. “Why, Professeur Ramsey,” they inquired, “is French not the international language of Science?” Ramsey immediately answered them in his fluent French, with a thick midwestern accent. Horrified, they dropped the subject. In fact, the French Academy of Sciences caused the adoption of English as the international language of science in the seventeenth century by being the first national academy to abandon the previous international language, Latin, and publish their proceedings in their own language. The English and the Germans followed suit. The rest is just an accident of history.