THE ACADEMY COLUMN
A new biography of our first science Nobel has just appeared: ‘The Brain in Search of Itself: Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the Story of the Neuron’, by Benjamin Ehrlich. Indeed, it is written in English, but it has an easy translation: The brain in search of itself: Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the history of the neuron. The first review of this latest work is made by Alison Abbott for Nature (Vol. 605, May 26, 2022) with the solemn title ‘A biographical account of the precursor of modern neuroscience and its development’.
In addition to praising D. Santiago’s investigative tenacity, Ehrlich reminds us of his famous dispute with Camillo Golgi, happily resolved in favor of our Nobel. In addition, he presents Cajal as a prolific and lucid writer who published popular science and novels, as well as countless academic works.
Leaving his scientific work for the experts, it is worth remembering, and encouraging its reading, the agile pen of D. Santiago suitable for all audiences. Namely, ‘When I was a child’, ‘My childhood and youth’, ‘Memories of my life’, ‘The world seen at eighty years old’, ‘Aphorisms and coffee talks’, ‘The psychology of Don Quixote and Quixotism ‘, ‘Holiday stories. Pseudo-scientific narratives’, ‘Advice for young scientists’ and ‘Rules and advice on scientific research. The tonics of the will’.
Looking ahead to the holidays, there is where to choose, for all tastes and with full certainty that D. Santiago will not disappoint anyone. For example, I dare to recommend ‘Holiday stories. pseudoscientific narratives. There are five stories, with a moralizing intention, that the author hesitated to publish “both because of the bizarreness of the ideas and because of the looseness and carelessness of the style.” The subtitle of ‘Pseudoscientific Narratives’ refers to the fact that the stories are based on rational facts or hypotheses from the biological sciences and modern psychology.
The character of this column allows us to air D. Ramón’s advice for young scientists – by age or by spirit. Here they go: 1) Independence of judgment, to be suspicious and scrutinizing the work of your predecessors and teachers; 2) Perseverance in study, in the sense of permanently orienting all your faculties, without rest, on an object of study; 3) Passion for glory, because the researcher is encouraged by two aspirations: love of science and passion for glory. The predominance of both explains his entire life; and 4) Patriotism, to raise the prestige of your country, without denigrating the credit of others.
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