Sat. Apr 20th, 2019

A Cajal Museum without Cajal | Science

A Cajal Museum without Cajal | Science


One of the sanctuaries of world medicine is located at number 51 on Santa Isabel street, in Madrid. There, in a small room with wooden benches, he taught for 30 years Santiago Ramón y Cajal, an international genius at the height of Albert Einstein He won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for discovering the neurons of the brain, "the butterflies of the soul".

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When he retired, on May 1, 1922, Cajal left in his classroom a signed photograph that still remains today on a wall of the Madrid building, with this dedication: "It has been said many times that the problem of Spain is a problem of culture Urgently, indeed, if we want to incorporate ourselves to the civilized peoples, intensely cultivate the wastelands of our land and our brain, saving for the prosperity and patriotic upliftment all the rivers that are lost in the sea and all the talents that are lost in the ignorance".

"We need the Government to promote a National Museum," urges the doctor Santiago Ramón y Cajal Agüeras

Almost a century later, the private institution that now occupies the building, the Medical Association of Madrid, has announced that it will dedicate 1,500 square meters to the creation of a Ramón y Cajal Chair Museum, with the almost intact classroom of the Nobel Prize as the main protagonist. . The continent - a monumental building in the museum axis of Madrid, next to Reina Sofía- is spectacular. The enigma is the content.

The College of Physicians has not reached an agreement with the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), the public body that holds almost the entire legacy of the father of neuroscience. There are 22,000 pieces -such as drawings, manuscripts, letters and photographs- that carry since 1989 stored in boxes in a room of the Cajal Institute, a CSIC research center located near the Santiago Bernabéu football stadium. If there is no progress in the negotiations, the Cátedra Ramón y Cajal Museum will be the space of Cajal without the work of Cajal.

The great amphitheater of the Medical College of Madrid.
The great amphitheater of the Medical College of Madrid.

"We need more ambition, that the Government promotes a National Museum", urges Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a pathologist at the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, ​​who shares his name with his great-grandfather's brother. In his opinion, the headquarters of the Medical Association would be "a very good place" for that project. However, the CSIC manages other plans. "The CSIC has already advanced the project to expose the Cajal Legacy," explains a spokeswoman for the cabinet of the president of the agency, Rosa Menéndez. After decades of official neglect and neglect, Madrid could have two museums dedicated to Cajal, who died in 1934.

"It would be idiotic to have more than one Cajal Museum in Madrid," laments researcher Juan Andrés de Carlos

"It would be idiotic to have more than one Cajal Museum in Madrid", laments Juan Andrés de Carlos, a researcher from the Cajal Institute who was custodian of the legacy for a decade. "But the Medical Association has not achieved absolutely anything of the presidency of the CSIC", confirms. The president of the School, Miguel Ángel Sánchez Chillón, is more optimistic: "We want our museum to be a black hole that attracts the legacy of Cajal and his school". As he says, has the verbal commitment to expose some 6,000 pieces from family collections of the disciples of the neuroscientist, although the nephew great-grandson points out that "nothing is closed yet."

This Wednesday, Sánchez Chillón and the general director of Cultural Heritage of the Community of Madrid, Paloma Sobrini, have presented the plans for the future museum. The works will begin in a few weeks. The mansion on Santa Isabel Street houses the Medical Association since 1973, but first it was the Faculty of Medicine of San Carlos, inaugurated in 1834. With the legacy of the CSIC or without it, the visit is worth it. "It's like returning to the 19th century," summarizes Sánchez Chillón. The private institution already organizes "theatrical visits", in which an actor disguised as Cajal guides the audience through the Nobel Prize room and the grand nineteenth-century amphitheater of the old faculty.

"I disapprove, in principle, the statues in life," said Cajal in a speech of thanks to the erection of a monument to his figure in the Retiro Park, in 1926. "To appraise the work of a man, one needs the ideal perspective of time, of that implacable purifier of prestige and decanter of truths," he added. In the case of Cajal, time seems to decant two museums in the capital.

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