One of our seven Nobel Prize winners, specifically the second, was Santiago Ramón y Cajal. He received this well-deserved award in 1906, shared with Camilo Golgi, who was the true discoverer of the structure of the nervous system. In fact, the opinions of both researchers were different regarding the neuronal connection, although Ramón y Cajal was the greatest exponent of the discovery in Spain.
The son of a doctor and pressured by his father, he became a good dissectionist, but his true vocation was to look through a microscope, draw and photograph everything he saw.
Cajal lived in Valencia. On December 13, 1883, Ramón y Cajal took possession of the Anatomy Chair in Valencia and remained there until 1887, when he left for Barcelona. He arrived in our city married and with two children, when he left the fifth child had already been born and later he would still have two more. With a very modest economy, 3,500 pesetas a year, the family settled in a guest house in the market area, later they moved to Avellanas Street, Pizarro Street and finally to Colón Street, where Cajal had his experimental laboratory. , in which he had a zeiss microscope, a microtome and a photo camera. In this laboratory, he devoted himself mainly to histology, on which he wrote several treatises that were published in Valencia. He supplemented his income by creating private classes at his home, where he taught theoretical-practical courses in pathological histology and bacteriology.
taste for the city
Cajal liked our city, he toured it all in the first days of his stay and despite calling his university provincial, he left these words written: «I was in a new country for me, with a very mild temperature, in whose fields flourished the pita and the orange tree, and in whose spirits nested courtesy, culture and ingenuity. Valencia is called the Spanish Athens for a reason.
Barely two months after arriving in Valencia, he became a member of the Casino de la Agricultura in order to socialize, and he did the same a little later with the Ateneo Mercantil. Where he truly found an echo for his social gatherings and joys was in the back room of the pharmacy in La Morera de Narciso Loras. In the provincial environment that our city offered him, Cajal lived very calmly with his classes, his research, his family and his gatherings with José Arévalo Baca, Vicente Peset, Pérez Chiari, Rodrigo Pertegás, Miguel Marsal, Emilio Ribera and many other prominent figures. of the local culture.
It is there where the idea of founding a gastronomic-sports club or association was born, since D. Santiago was a very good eater. With the acquiescence of all, the “Gaster Club” was founded, using the Latin meaning of the word “stomach” and incidentally creating some humorous confusion with the word Ganster. They left the capital to visit nearby places, where the main purpose was to taste a good paella made outdoors, although they also enjoyed the local or typical products of the area.
Forbidden to talk about politics
The regulations, written by Cajal «excluded as something heinous and abominable anything that smacked of politics, religion or philosophy, with its inevitable derivations, heated controversies, disturbing digestion and enervating cordial friendship. Only science and art was allowed to discuss, and that in plain and easily understandable terms. We had declared war without quarter to the emphasis and the declamation».
These Sunday excursions were very cheerful, almost always by train or tartana, they were carried out during the day and they were called xalas. While the feast was being seasoned, the participants in the excursion enjoyed nature, went for walks, observed plants, stones and farm animals, but everything stopped at the cry of… to the table! Ramón y Cajal collected photographic documents from numerous of these outings.
«From paella to paella and always in pleasant and pleasant company, we visited all the attractive corners of the Levantine region: SaguntoCastellon, Xativa, swedish, Cullerathe Desert of Las Palmas, Burjasot, La Albufera, Gandiathe Monduber and Espadán mountains, etc., successively paraded through the lens of my Kodak, congealing in evidence that we piously guard, as memories of longed-for youth, the few survivors of that generation» .
Ramón y Cajal felt a real love for photography, he discovered many of the necessary mechanisms to obtain color images. So much so that in 1900 he was appointed honorary president of the Royal Photographic Society. In 1906 he discovers the polychromatic reticulation process and in 1912 he publishes the book «The photography of colors». In his own words, the privilege of photography is to immortalize the fugitive creations of nature.
From 1885, after the serious cholera epidemic that devastated Valencia, the Gaster Club reached its maximum splendor and freshness. Far from being sad, its members understood the ephemerality of life and decided to live it with greater joy.
During the years that Cajal lived in Valencia, from 1884 to 1887, the works and publications of the French doctor Charcot on neuroses and hysteria, purely nervous diseases that affect the emotional part of the individual, were very popular. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who was already familiar with those experiments, encouraged his friends to organize a Psychological Research Committee.
He created a hypnotic psychotherapy clinic at his home on Calle Colón, dedicated to the study of artificial somnambulism, the phenomena of suggestion and hypnotism in general. They began their activities with the search and capture of suitable subjects. «Through my house, converted for that purpose into a social address, paraded very remarkable species of hysterics, neurasthenics, maniacs, and even accredited spiritualist mediums». Among the friends and people who collaborated in the suggestion experiments was Silveria, his wife, whom he even hypnotized to relieve pain during childbirth.
Ramón y Cajal had a special ability to treat patients with hysteria and neurosis, his fame reached such magnitudes that he had to close the office for not being able to attend to him.
Ramón y Cajal left Valencia for Barcelona and then for Madrid in order to find out the material course of thought and will and surprise the intimate history of life. He knew what he was looking for, he had a clear idea, but not the means to carry it out. In Madrid, the neurologist Luis Simarro, son of the Valencian painter Ramón Simarro Oltra, showed him the Golgi method that would provide him with the tool he needed to become the first and most brilliant explorer of the brain in modern Neuroscience.
At the initiative of the Valencian doctors, on August 6, 1925, one of the most important avenues of the City was labeled with the name of Gran Vía Ramón y Cajal.
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Ramón y Cajal and the “Gaster Club”