Jennifer has a master's degree in nursing and been a clinical instructor for BSN students.
From Rebellious Kid to Creative and Scientific Genius
Picture a young boy shunned from school to school due to behavioral problems, a mischief-maker who is jailed at the age of 11, and who later snuck into a graveyard to rob graves. What would you expect to become of such a kid? Where would he end up? It turns out that such a rebel would grow up to be known as the father of modern neuroscience and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Birth and Childhood
Santiago Ramón y Cajal was born May 1, 1852 in Petilla de Aragón, a poor village in northern Spain. He was the oldest son of Antonia Cajal and Justo Ramón Casasús (known as Don Justo). Don Justo was a no-nonsense parent and Santiago was constantly in trouble, despite his obvious intelligence. Santiago was interested in art and sports, which his father discouraged, and he even had a professional artist tell Santiago his artwork was no good in order to discourage him. When Santiago was 11 he spent a few days in jail for blowing a hole in his neighbor's gate with a homemade cannon. In the midst of transferring Santiago from school to school due to his behavior problems his father eventually tried apprenticing him out learn a trade. In a final attempt to engage his son's interest in medicine his father took him to a local cemetery where some human remains were being unearthed and the pair took specimens back to their home for Santiago to sketch, of which Cajal later said, ''Deeply was I impressed by finding and examining these human relics.'' This finally got Cajal interested in academic pursuits and he graduated from medical school at age 21.
Cajal was drafted into the military and served as an army doctor in the Ten Years' War in Cuba before receiving an honorable discharge after contracting malaria and tuberculosis.
Cajal spent all he had on his first microscope in 1866 and went on to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Zaragoza in medicine in 1877 at the age of 25, though his grades were poor due to his illness.
Two years later Cajal married for love, against the advice of his family and friends, Silvería Fañanás García. Although she was uneducated, Silvería brought other things to their marriage which Cajal lauded later in life- she loved him and believed in him unreservedly. One of the reasons his friends tried to discourage him from marrying was that they worried a family would interfere with his career, but Cajal later said of his family, ''the children of the flesh did not smother the children of the mind.'' They had 7 children and Cajal describes instances in which his wife sacrificed many comforts for the sake of economy so that Cajal could stick with his investigative pursuits. Cajal and Silvería were married in the Catholic church and all of their children were baptized Catholic. While Silvería remained a devout Catholic throughout her life, Cajal was critical of organized religion. Some of his later writings indicated a desire to return to a Catholic, or at least Creationist, view of the world. In a lecture to the Royal Academy of the Sciences he stated,
''To those who tell you that Science quenches all poetry… tell them that in the vain poetry of the people, based on an erroneous notion of Universe…you substitute a much more grandiose and sublime one, which is the poetry of truth, the incomparable beauty of the work of God and the eternal laws established by him...''
In 1887 he became a professor at the University of Barcelona. It was at this post that he learned of the Golgi staining method that would lead to his Nobel Prize-winning research. The staining method proved that nerve cells could be colored by using silver nitrate, so Cajal began using this method and achieved many unprecedented results. He used his artistic talent to draw detailed images of cell types associated with neural structures.
Throughout his life, he was a prolific writer and was published in scientific journals in Spanish, French, and German. He wrote many books and even published a collection of science fiction stories under the pen name Dr. Bacteria. He also continued his love of art- he was a successful photographer and was also well-known for his illustrations of nerve cells.
Ramón y Cajal continued teaching, studying and experimenting in middle- and late life. He prided himself his ability to admit when he was wrong. He famously said, ''The worst part is not in making a mistake but in trying to justify it, instead of using it as a heaven-sent warning of our own mindlessness or our ignorance.'' Ramón y Cajal was still very active until his late sixties when he began to have debilitating headaches and was diagnosed with cerebral arteriosclerosis. When he was 70 he retired from his post at the university and subsequently failed to attend many celebrations and awards in his honor. The death of his wife further hurt his morale and he retreated further into himself, but didn't stop writing. His last book was entitled, The World Seen at Eighty Years- Impressions of an Arteriosclerotic (Man). Cajal continued to be a prolific writer until he died October 18, 1934 in Madrid.
Santiago Ramón y Cajal was born in Spain in 1852. He was constantly in trouble despite his father's intense desire that he be a good student. He finally became interested in medicine when, with his father's help, he stole bones from a graveyard and began sketching them. He finished medical school before being drafted into the army and was honorably discharged for health reasons. He married for love and had 7 children. Winning the Nobel Prize for his breakthrough discoveries has earned him the name ''the father of modern neuroscience.'' In addition to medicine, Cajal enjoyed art, photography, and writing. He even used the pen name Dr. Bacteria to publish a series of sci-fi stories. His academic work was published in scientific journals in Spanish, French, and German. He continued researching and writing until his death in 1934.
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