Ramon y Cajal
Nobel Prizes are a mixed blessing. Scientists often get credit for work done by their teams. One such laureate in a conversation with me dismissed scornfully the Nobel Prizes in literature, saying that they provide the only way Third World countries can get a Nobel Prize. In fact, when one surveys the list of literary laureates, it is sad that so few have stood the test of time.
Scientists survive the test of time better. Spain is rightly proud of Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934), who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1906. I remember his impressive Madrid funeral. The occasion for recent rejoicing was that biological experiments carried out in the space ship Colombia by a Spanish astronaut were dedicated to him. Articles about him deal almost exclusively with his scientific achievements, forgetting his importance as a writer. I used his autobiographical account of his youth, Mi infancia y juventud, as a text. It was not easy reading, but students were amazed that a turbulent village youth who spent time in jail could become a world-famous scientist. More relevant in this centennial of the 1898 war is that he gave a moving account of his experiences as a common soldier in Cuba. We forget their suffering.
Ronald Hilton - 03/16/98