The mansion during which a former minister was publicly dissected needs to be a nationwide museum | Science | EUROtoday

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It was probably essentially the most wonderful anatomy class ever. On November 11, 1908, Professor Alejandro San Martín—a well-known surgeon who had simply been Minister of Public Instruction—went to provide his final lecture on the Faculty of Medicine in Madrid. The uncommon factor about that Wednesday morning is that San Martín, 61, had been lifeless the day earlier than. In his will he had ordered that his corpse, wrapped in his educational gown, be carried in a two-horse hearse to the dissection room, in order that his college students may proceed studying from his instructor. . In a solemn ceremony, with imposing silence, three different professors opened the cranium of his classmate and extracted his mind earlier than a whole bunch of scholars. The Ministry of Science is now finding out utilizing the place that hosted that extraordinary lesson – the so-called previous mansion of San Carlos, on Atocha Street – because the headquarters of the longer term National Brain Museum, promised by President Pedro Sánchez for June 2025.

The historian María José Rebollo reveals the constructing to EL PAÍS and stops on the actual place the place the post-mortem of San Martín happened, within the spectacular massive amphitheater of what’s now the College of Physicians of Madrid. It is straightforward to think about the scene of that morning in 1908. The professor's physique was positioned on an alabaster desk, from which blood was dripping right into a steel bucket. Professors and disciples cried once they noticed his instructor, a person who performed Mozart on the piano and drove round with one of many first cars in Madrid, open to the general public. Next to the physique was the researcher Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who two years earlier had gained the Nobel Prize in Medicine for demonstrating that the mind is organized into particular person cells: neurons. Cajal, additionally a professor on the previous mansion, was attending the general public dissection of one in all his finest associates.

The monumental constructing of the previous Faculty of Medicine of Madrid, opened in 1834 and deserted in 1965, occupies a whole block and witnessed the start of contemporary medication. In the early years, surgeons entered working rooms with soiled fingers and stiff robes from the buildup of pus and dried blood from earlier sufferers. In 1865, the English physician Joseph Lister invented the primary antiseptic methodology—carbolic acid to disinfect wounds—and adjusted the historical past of humanity. Alejandro San Martín met Lister in particular person and unfold his revolutionary strategies from the Madrid mansion.

The great amphitheater of the old Faculty of Medicine, where the body of Alejandro San Martín was dissected.
The nice amphitheater of the previous Faculty of Medicine, the place the physique of Alejandro San Martín was dissected.Julián Rojas Ocaña

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, introduced on October 3, 2022 “the creation of a museum dedicated to the functioning of the brain.” The Minister of Science, Diana Morant, defined that this museum house can be named after Cajal. Somewhat over a yr after its promised inauguration, it isn’t even recognized the place will probably be, however a ministry spokesperson confirms to EL PAÍS that one of many last choices is the previous mansion on Atocha Street. It appears a perfect candidate: the classroom during which Cajal taught till his retirement in 1922 is undamaged, the constructing belongs to the State and can be a part of the Landscape of Light (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO), very shut of the good museums of Madrid: the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofía.

The expectation is most. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Science emphasizes that what was promised is a National Museum and that it’s going to guard Cajal's legacy, a scientific treasure with hundreds of drawings, spectacular images taken by the Nobel Prize winner and slices of brains that illuminated the functioning of human thought. The previous mansion of Atocha is among the three nice works that stay in Madrid from the reign of Fernando VII, together with the Royal Theater and the Senate, in accordance with the architectural historian Pedro Moleón. The constructing is property of the State, but it surely has two de facto house owners: one half is from the Ministry of Science itself and has been transferred to the College of Physicians since 1970; the remainder, occupied by the National Institute of Public Administration, belongs to the Ministry of Finance.

The first feminine docs of Medicine

The Ninth Symphony by Beethoven premiered in Madrid on April 2, 1882. Just six months later one other momentous occasion occurred within the metropolis. Dolores Aleu, 25 years previous, turned the primary doctorate in Medicine in Spain, after studying her thesis within the Atocha mansion. “The life of a woman, since the most remote times, has been a continuous martyrdom,” Aleu started, earlier than a in all probability stupefied viewers. “The strange, sad and ridiculous thing is that this martyrdom continues, in the middle of the century of enlightenment,” she lamented.

What adopted was a corrosive feminist speech, completely historic, during which Aleu denounced prostitution, the slavery of poor working girls and the cynicism of males, who beforehand stored silent about these injustices however watched with horror as younger girls turned educated. “What danger is there in women knowing the ailments of their own sex and being recognized as capable of practicing medicine, if they show proof of possessing sufficient knowledge in this branch of knowledge? What damage must this cause? My weak intelligence, no matter how much it tortures itself, cannot find any,” Aleu snapped on the court docket with irony. Days later one other girl, Martina Castells, obtained her doctorate. “The newspapers that witnessed the event say that it was necessary to suppress a traditional ceremony: the hugs of the faculty to the graduating student. As this omission was not known in advance, the entire faculty had attended the ceremony,” the journal printed. The Spanish and American Enlightenment.

Former Faculty of Medicine of Madrid, on Atocha Street, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Former Faculty of Medicine of Madrid, on Atocha Street, originally of the twentieth century.LOVE

María José Rebollo, head of Artistic Heritage on the College of Physicians, speaks with enthusiasm, nearly with love, concerning the previous mansion. “This building represents the history of science and medicine better than any other,” he maintains within the nice amphitheater that hosted the dissection of Alejandro San Martín and masterful talks by nice scientists, such because the French physicist Marie Curie and the Russian physiologist Iván Pavlov, the one with Pavlov's canine.

Rebollo factors up, to the nineteenth-century frescoes with the faces of the legends of Spanish medication. “This is like a stray. Many streets bear the names of these doctors: Castelló, Drumen, Fourquet… The lord of that medallion is Diego de Argumosa, who was the first to go from operating on patients sitting to placing them lying down. And he was also one of the first to wash his hands before the operation,” he particulars. The College of Physicians will open an exhibition about its personal historical past on February 22.

The physician Severo Ochoa additionally studied right here, so the one two Spaniards who’ve gained the Nobel Prize in Medicine got here from this mansion. Even the phrase working room was born right here, within the previous Faculty of Medicine, which as soon as included what’s now the Conservatory of Music and was instantly linked to the Provincial Hospital of Madrid, at present transformed into the Reina Sofía Museum. In the room the place the Guernica Very critically in poor health sufferers with the plagues of that point, akin to typhus and tuberculosis, had been piling up at Picasso. The corpses arrived by way of a walkway to the Atocha mansion, to be dissected by the scholars. The author and physician Pío Baroja was one in all these college students, round 1888. In his memoirs, he recalled listening to that one other colleague took the arm of a lifeless man and positioned it beneath his cloak, to current the chilly hand to his associates. They got here as much as greet him.

In 2019, an actor represented Santiago Ramón y Cajal in the classroom where the Nobel Prize winner taught, in the Atocha mansion.
In 2019, an actor represented Santiago Ramón y Cajal within the classroom the place the Nobel Prize winner taught, within the Atocha mansion.Julian Rojas

For the residing there was the working room. The physician Andrés del Busto defined the origin of the phrase in 1892, after inaugurating the primary aseptic working room, separated from the scholars and their germs by a glass wall. “We gave it the name operating room, because we understood that this new name, formed from two roots, which mean surgery and transparent, represented well the idea of ​​being able to perform operations in it, so that they could be seen by the disciples without being there. in the same operating room,” wrote Del Busto, chamber doctor to Queen Elizabeth II.

Five medical establishments – together with the College itself – signed on July 2, 2021 an settlement to create within the Atocha mansion, in an undetermined future, the Spanish Museum of Medicine, a set that might carry collectively jewels scattered in different entities. One of its foremost promoters is Antonio Campos, a professor on the University of Granada who sits in Cajal's chair on the Royal National Academy of Medicine. The educational believes that the 2 initiatives can coexist. “They are not incompatible proposals. And it is an almost natural idea: the building is a symbolic site of Spanish medicine and is in the axis of Madrid's museums. We need a political push,” he believes. Campos remembers that the Spanish Government labored exhausting to rework the Provincial Hospital into a up to date artwork museum in 1986. “If the Reina Sofía was created, why not create this one?” Campos asks.

View of Atocha Street in 1857, with the old Faculty of Medicine in the center, connected by a wing with arches (today the Conservatory of Music) to the Hospital (today the Reina Sofía Museum, to the far left).
View of Atocha Street in 1857, with the previous Faculty of Medicine within the heart, linked by a wing with arches (right now the Conservatory of Music) to the Hospital (right now the Reina Sofía Museum, to the far left).José María Sánchez / BNE

María Urioste Ramón y Cajal, great-granddaughter of the Nobel Prize winner, says that she is moved each time she enters the mansion. “I would love for it to be the headquarters of the museum, because it is where my great-grandfather taught and it is in the heart of Madrid's museums. It's the perfect place. Years ago I heard that they wanted to take the museum to Alcalá de Henares and I already said that it had nothing to do there,” she says. The concept of ​​creating a big museum devoted to Cajal has been round virtually because the scientist's loss of life in 1934. Many initiatives have failed, even within the Atocha mansion. A small a part of his legacy is now exhibited within the National Museum of Natural Sciences, in Madrid.

On the day of Alejandro San Martín's dissection, a 21-year-old pupil, José Álvarez-Sierra, was within the first row of the stands. “Having reconstructed the architecture of the head and made the new adaptation of the skin to the frontal bone, with such scrupulous precision that the facial expression was perfect, they proceeded to open the thoracic cavity by cutting the ribs and raising the sternum,” he would recall six extra many years. late in your e book History of Madrid medication. After finding out their associate's coronary heart and lungs, and too excited to proceed, the three professors determined to finish the category with out opening San Martín's belly viscera.

In his will, the previous minister had begged his colleagues to dissect him in entrance of their college students. “I hope that the love of humanity, science and teaching, well proven in my dear bosses and colleagues at this university, will make them lend me this last favor, sure as I am that having achieved it I will leave an example worthy of imitation.” , he implored. Minister Diana Morant must determine shortly if she imitates her predecessor, who even handed over her physique, to show the previous Atocha mansion right into a sanctuary of drugs.

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