Ten things you didn’t know about…
…the father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal.
The work of famous Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal had a huge influence on modern neuroscience, and his studies on the anatomical organisation of the brain are still a source of inspiration for many. Cajal’s work provided decisive evidence for the neuron doctrine; the concept that the nervous system is made up of discrete individual cells.
- As a child, Cajal was very badly behaved, and was forced to switch schools several times.
- Cajal first tried his hand at working as a barber, which did not work out well, and then as a cobbler, which had similar results.
- Cajal’s interest in anatomical study was piqued by his father, who, in the hope of encouraging his son to take up a medical career, took him to graveyards to study human remains.
- Cajal served as a medical officer in the Spanish Army, which, in spite of the dangers, was a highly sought-after position. After contracting malaria and tuberculosis in Cuba, he travelled to the Pyrenees town of Panticosa for rehabilitation.
- During his career, Cajal received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Cambridge (UK) and Wurzburg (DE), and Clark University in the USA.
- In 2005, scientist Juan Lacruz named an asteroid in Cajal’s honour: 117413 Ramonycajal.
- Cajal was a very enthusiastic photographer, and was constantly looking for new ways to improve his images.
- Cajal’s reputation as the father of neuroscience lives on, and his descriptions of the cerebral cortex are still the most authoritative.
- In 1905, Cajal published a set of short stories entitled “Vacation Stories”. Cajal did not give his name on the title page, and instead used the nom de plume “Dr Bacteria”.
- Finally, Cajal offered sage advice to new researchers:
“If a solution fails to appear … and yet we feel success is just around the corner, try resting for a while. Like the early morning frost, this intellectual refreshment withers the parasitic and nasty vegetation that smothers the good seed. Bursting forth at last is the flower of truth.”