Scientist Santiago Grisolía dies

Santiago Grisolia. / LP

Science | Biochemistry

He won the Prince of Asturias Award for research and has died at the age of 99

The world of science, and by extension of culture, is in mourning. The Valencian Santiago Grisolía has passed away. The most brilliant scientific researcher born in Valencian lands, Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific Research in 1990, has died this Thursday at the Clinical Hospital of Valencia at the age of 99. With him goes the example of vitality, a model of tireless dedication to scientific research and a sign of the commitment to Valencian culture and heritage demonstrated since the presidency of the Consell Valencià de Cultura (CVC). He leaves numerous and indelible moments and memories in the city where, through his hand, through the Jaume I Awards, the greatest of world science, the most diverse Nobel Prize winners, the most prestigious names in any science have walked. make it your specialty.

He was born on Three Kings Day, January 6, 1923 in the city of Turia. In view of the legacy that he leaves with his death, it could well be said that it was a gift. His life was spent in the different cities to which his father's work in banking took him. Dénia, Xàtiva, Lorca and Cuenca from Murcia witnessed the childhood of a boy who wanted to be a sailor given his confessed passion for the sea. He ended up wearing the white coat of a doctor devoted to study until he became the scientist whose contribution to the development of Biochemistry is considered transcendent for this science.

Collaborator of Severo Ochoa

In his career, collaboration with Dr. Severo Ochoa was decisive, for whom he always showed deep admiration to the point of getting the capital of the Turia to give his name to a street, the same one where Grisolía himself lived in front of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Valencia.

His time with Dr. Ochoa, which began in 1946, was decisive for his career. With the Asturian Nobel laureate, he worked on studies on the malic enzyme. But he soon let go of the skirts of the country when in Spain being able to talk about science was science fiction. In the dismal forties he packed his bags and crossed the pond to stare at the early microscopes in American research laboratories. At the University of Chicago he initiated the use of marker isotopes for the study of metabolic patterns, with which technique he was able to demonstrate the fixation of carbon dioxide in animal tissues. Then came the contract with the University of Wisconsin, where he made a decisive contribution to the knowledge of the urea metabolic cycle. And then came Kansas.

The Human Genome

He was a member of the most prestigious scientific societies, advisor to foundations and entities and also president of the UNESCO Coordination Committee for the Human Genome. Such a brilliant career, how could it be otherwise, led to a harvest of awards among which the already mentioned Prince of Asturias shines and the numerous Honoris Causa doctorates, among which is that of the Universitat Politècnica de València.

In 1976 he returned to the city where he was born. His return meant assuming the direction of the Cytological Research Institute. And in 1978 he took a step that would be decisive for the Turia capital. He became co-founder of the Foundation for Advanced Studies, promoter of the Rey Jaime I Awards, which year after year are awarded at the Lonja in the presence of a member of the Royal Family.

The Jaimes I

With the Jaime I, in perfect solution with Grisolía, Valencia became a name of reference in the always dark for Spain corridor of science. With his inexhaustible energy, dedication and perseverance, he worked to shake consciences that were not capable of seeing that research opened the doors of tomorrow. «The Jaime I have been a way of publicizing Spanish science and making society realize that the future lies in science. It has also meant putting Valencia in the spotlight of science; it was something necessary for the city”, said the professor in an interview with LAS PROVINCIAS in 2020 on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Prince of Asturias Award.

A look at the life journey of the man who one day confessed to this house that the spark of life "is in the imagination" discovers that the love for science was added to the love he always professed for his city, Valencian culture and heritage. He lacked “a greater knowledge on the part of society. We Valencians need to know our own culture».

Commitment to culture

In statements like this, his condition as president of the CVC was hidden, attesting to the commitment to his origin, which he exercised in accordance with the condition of the Valencian that he was, but which had the aroma of being different, the aroma that the lifestyle gave him. American that he brought with him from his years in the United States.

From the platform granted to him by the CVC, even though his age was already advanced, he always kept his eyes wide open and his voice ready to denounce, putting his finger on the sore spot on the excesses that stalked the Valencian heritage. It was the CVC that managed to stop the demolition of the Colón Market and it was the voice of Grisolía that in the 2020 conversation with this newspaper confessed that the Fine Arts is a museum “very much ignored in Valencia, underline it. He doesn't deserve it. We should be very proud to have him »at the same time he expressed his interest in defending the garden.

mood for dialogue

With a friendly conversation, always watered with a very refined humor, elegant manners and a mood for dialogue, the professor won for himself the sympathy and respect of all sectors of Valencian society that today mourn his loss. His proximity to the Monarchy led the King Emeritus, Juan Carlos I, in 2014 to grant him the Marquisate of Grisolía.

Until the end of his days he was interested in knowing, in knowing more. When he was already 97 years old and from these pages he was asked if he had anything left to see -someone who had seen so much-, his answer could not have been more revealing from someone with the immense curiosity of the wise: «The creation of the life as such. Also how to stop aging. There is still a long way to go on this. Why we age doesn't make sense, in the same way that it is very difficult to understand why we grow up. There are many people investigating, they are concerned because naturally all of us alive are affected. And whether you like it or not, the average term of life is relatively short. That is why there are few centenarians and the reason why they have been able to live so many years is investigated. But Professor Grisolía knew the secret of longevity: “Having good friends. And also live in a suitable environment and with all the current hygiene and sanitary elements ».

And he lamented society's contempt for old age: «Before, the elderly person was the person who was consulted and was taken into account. Today there is a cult of youth, but it is not worth going overboard and forgetting the mature and advanced forms of knowledge». Active almost to the end of his life he showed that mature knowledge was possible. And, as if that were not enough, his tireless effort gives the now deceased the immortality of his legacy for science and culture among future generations. D.E.P.

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