This paper (HERE), makes a fairly compelling argument that the Python programming language, and the ecosytem that has developed over the past ten years around it, is now an excellent choice for general purpose professional scientific computing for real world applications.
After spending a few days trying to teach myself Python from scratch, and succeeding, I would agree.
Below. My Coding Life
* I originally learned to write computer code on a Sinclair ZX81 in BASIC.
From 1989 to 1999:
* I learnt how to write macros in Lotus-123.
* I began doing serious data analysis in FORTRAN 77.
* Then graduated to ANSI C.
* I wrote thousands of lines of C for my PhD.
* I learnt IDL in 1998.
Then I had a nearly 15 year hiatus of next to no code writing (but dabbled with R).
* Now I have begun to understand Python.
Here is a pretty good introduction to scientific computing in Python by Robert Johansson.