From Hippocrates to Gregorio Marañón to the Galician Isabel Zendal, the trail of medicine in the streets of Madrid

Great figures of Medicine flood the corners of Madrid and other towns in the Community giving names to their streets, health centers, transport infrastructures or through plaques, statues or medallions in their honor that remember and praise their contribution, greater or lesser, more known or unknown, in the advancement of health care throughout history.

From busts of Hippocrates de Cos, one of the fathers of medicine, to references to the Spanish Nobel Prize winners Severo Ochoa and Santiago Ramón y Cajal, passing through doctors Argumosa, Gregorio Marañón, Letamendi or Cortezo, coexist in the day to day of the people of Madrid together with other Nursing figures such as Isabel Zendal, Pharmacology such as Juan Ramón Gómez Pamo or Dentistry such as Florestán Aguilar.

The working group ‘Callejeando’ of BiblioMadSalud (Association of Professionals of Libraries and Health Centers in the Community of Madrid) has undertaken a collaborative project called ‘The names of medicine in the streets of the Community of Madrid’ with the aim of show the role that this discipline has in the toponymy of the Madrid municipalities.

It is a project in constant evolution that, so far, has managed to identify and document more than 600 milestones in which tribute is paid to these great and small names that have marked medical history and that are located in Madrid, Alcalá de Henares , Fuenlabrada, Leganés, Majadahonda and Miraflores de la Sierra.

Thus, streets have been identified with the names of doctors Argumosa, Letamendi, Cortezo, Ramón y Cajal; but also sculptures dedicated to Severo Ochoa or Gregorio Marañón; portraits of Lacaba, Castelló, Drumen or Fourquet; means of transport with the names of Francos Rodríguez or Méndez Álvaro; and public spaces such as the Huerta de la Salud or the park dedicated to Dr. Fernández Catalina.

There are also medallions in the courtyard of the College of Physicians (former Faculty of Medicine) with portraits of Galen, Hippocrates, Avicenna, Arnau de Vilanova or Andrés Laguna or plaques dedicated to Jaime Vera, Pagés or Mutis.

This search for names has revealed the scarce presence of women on the streets of these six Madrid towns. There is, however, no shortage of great names such as Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Physics in 1903, and the pioneer in achieving it in two disciplines –she won Chemistry in 1911–, in addition to having discovered the radio and polonium, and that has a health center in Leganés and a street in Madrid.

Nor are those of other references to Spanish women of international relevance such as the Spanish politician, anarchist trade unionist and writer Federica Monstseny, the first woman to hold a position as minister in Spain (she was Minister of Health and Social Assistance during the government of Francisco Largo Caballero in the Second Republic) and promoter of the first bill on abortion in Spain, or the Asturian biochemist and researcher Margarita Salas, a Spanish scientific reference who died in 2019.

And no recognition of more recent figures such as the Australian biochemist Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009 and discoverer of telomerase, an enzyme that forms telomeres during DNA replication.

Along with these great names, the presence of doctors of a more local nature also stands out, such as Antonio de Andrés (1888-1973), who has a statue erected in 1975 at the initiative of the residents of Vicálvaro in homage and thanks to the one who for many years was The town’s doctor and whose memory is also dedicated to the name of the square presided over by this work by the Madrid sculptor Emilio Laíz Campos, with whom the architect Vicente Baztán collaborated.

Homage is also paid to internationally famous figures such as Francisco Javier Balmis y Berenguer (1753-1819), a doctor from Alicante at the court of Carlos IV who played an important role in vaccination in 18th-century Spain with the Royal Philanthropic Expedition of the Vaccine by convincing the monarch of the importance of transporting the smallpox vaccine to the Spanish territories in America to stop an epidemic that was killing millions of lives.

Isabel Zendal
In line, the Galician nurse Isabel Zendal, who was part of this pioneering expedition led by Balmis that allowed thousands of children to be vaccinated against smallpox, was recently rescued from the ‘forgetfulness’ of history by naming the pandemic hospital built by the Community of Madrid after the appearance of Covid-19.

This heroic nurse was responsible for caring for the 22 foundlings from A Coruña who traveled to America as ‘live recipients of the vaccine’ -the serum was transported inside them-, as well as later for the 26 who went to the Philippines , during the ten years in which the expedition that would bring the smallpox vaccine to the Spanish territories in America took place.

The tour of the streets of these Madrid towns also allows you to discover personalities, who being doctors, have stood out in other fields such as the journalist Sinesio Delgado, the former mayor of Madrid Sergio Álvarez de Villaamil, the poet and politician of the independence of the Philippines José Rizal or the former Chilean president Salvador Allende.

A review of the medical history of centuries that also reaches more recent times such as Calle de Móstoles in recognition of Dr. Luis Montes, who died in April 2008. He who was director of the Severo Ocho Hospital in Leganés and president of the Federal Association ‘ Right to Die with Dignity’ fought for a dignified death after being accused of applying euthanasia to 400 patients.

With all this information, the BiblioMadSalud ‘Callejeando’ working group has generated interactive maps on Google Maps, which uses Google Drive to share and store data and, finally, locates and references landmarks with names related to health sciences in all its breadth.

Specifically, these are street names, sculptures that adorn parks and gardens, works of art that house institutions such as the Madrid College of Physicians or the Faculty of Medicine of the Complutense University or buildings in the health field such as hospitals and health centers. Health.

But also in other buildings of an educational nature such as schools and institutes and in a multitude of plaques and tombstones that on the facades of buildings link the names of doctors with their place of residence or work.

There are more than 220 streets, 10 transport names, 54 points related to tributes, 20 education names, 46 health locations, 174 artistic elements and 65 public spaces or buildings. In addition, more than 1,200 photographs have been included, most of them my own, more than 200 portraits and almost 200 short biographies, also my own.

In any case, the relationship is not closed, but in the process of being updated as new milestones are discovered or others are identified inside buildings.

This information is complemented by the creation of a page on Pinterest where two new images appear every week, which have previously been disseminated through the Twitter account of the BMS Association (#Callejeando BMS) to keep said information alive on a weekly basis.

Currently, the group is in talks with the Madrid City Council to be able to incorporate this information into its geomaps, as well as with the Polytechnic University of Madrid to create an app that allows this information to be consulted from mobile phones, making it even more accessible to everyone. the citizens.

-. Signature: MLUZ/DLTV .-

We would like to give thanks to the author of this post for this amazing content

From Hippocrates to Gregorio Marañón to the Galician Isabel Zendal, the trail of medicine in the streets of Madrid