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Monuments to Cajal in Madrid, Spain: Rejection of public tributes - 11/10/18

Doi : 10.1016/j.neurol.2018.02.086 
S. Giménez Roldan
 Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Calle Fuencarral, 126, 28010 Madrid, Spain 

Sous presse. Épreuves corrigées par l'auteur. Disponible en ligne depuis le jeudi 11 octobre 2018

Abstract

During Santiago Ramón y Cajal's lifetime, two monuments to him were erected in Madrid. However, Cajal excused himself from attending their inaugurations for reasons that have so far remained unexplained. The present report has therefore investigated the political context and personal circumstances that might account for his behavior. The first monument is a fountain in El Retiro Park, the work of sculptor Victorio Macho, inaugurated in 1926 during a major confrontation between progressive intellectuals and physicians against the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera. An official press release warned of a prison sentence for those who attempted a second (illegal) inauguration. The second monument appeared in 1931, barely a month after the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. This full-body statue, standing>3m (around 10ft) high on a narrow pedestal, was financed by medical students and sculpted by Lorenzo Domínguez, a Chilean medical student. Its unlikely height and thinness earned it the nickname ‘The Pencil’. At present, it flanks the entrance to Cajal's old classroom at the Madrid College of Physicians. Closer inspection reveals fractures as evidence of its having been broken into pieces at some point, presumably during bombings that took place in 1936. The calcareous Novelda stone used in its construction and its exposure to the elements may also partly explain its deterioration. A few metres away, a second sculpture, apparently a replica of the original, was inaugurated in 1998. Cajal's excuses for not attending the inaugurations of both his monuments may have different explanations. Regarding the fountain, it was probably a gesture of solidarity against those (many of whom were doctors) opposing the dictatorship whereas, when The Pencil was inaugurated, Cajal was 79 years old, and his physical limitations might have accounted for his inability to attend the ceremony. Thus, given the different political context in which each inauguration took place, Cajal's attitude was presumably in line with his politics, but also the result of his age-related infirmities.

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Keywords : Cajal, Lorenzo Domínguez, Madrid, Monuments, Politics, San Carlos Medical School, Victorio Macho


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