Ramón y Cajal, Santiago

Tagged: Author

(1852-1934) Spanish neuroscientist, artist and author; in his research into the structure of the micron, he established that the relationship between nerve cells was not continuous but contiguous, which has done something to save modern neurological science from excessively holistic presumptions; the Nobel Prize in medicine which he won in 1906 was primarily for this work. As a medical artist he was very well known; many of his drawings of the micro-architecture of the brain are still used.

Ramon y Cajal's sf, though apparently written early, was assembled relatively late as Cuentos de Vacaciones: Narraciones pseudocientificas: Primera serie (coll 1905; trans Laura Otis as Vacation Stories: Five Science Fiction Tales 2001) as by Dr Bacteria. There would never be a second series; the seven remaining unpublished stories were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. The elements of misanthropic Satire evident throughout the collection may reflect Ramon y Cajal's difficult early years, his road to eminence being unusually blockaded by his bad luck and "wrong" background. In "For a Secret Offence, Secret Revenge", a paranoid doctor on the verge of becoming a Mad Scientist creates a device to monitor "seismic activity" in his wife's bed ("... there's gonna be a meter on your bed", Leonard Cohen, 1988), so he can detect her infidelities, then infect the transgressors with a strange virus. The misogyny of this tale seems (if only to modern eyes) to consort oddly with the author's left-wing politics Other stories tend to deal with Medicine and scientific research in terms that present the edge of the unknown as a grotesque killing ground. [JC]

Santiago Ramón y Cajal

born Petilla de Aragón, Navarre, Spain: 1 May 1852

died Madrid, Spain: 18 October 1934

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