This week, the neurodeck reveals its brightest card: Santiago Ramón y Cajal, our King of Gold

Mischievous child and rebellious young man [1][2], his father’s medicine knew how to channel the vigor of his genius along the path of work and the discipline of knowledge.
Santiago Ramón y Cajal invested his first money as a military doctor in a microscope that opened up the universe of the brain. A universe that he explored with an eyepiece and that he interpreted following the layout of the graphite mine with which he illustrated his histological observations. Today, his drawings leave neuroscience laboratories to hang on the walls of museums that consider his works as true works of art [3] [4] [20].

Intuitive and manual, the tenacity of curiosity led him to discover, hand in hand with photography, the chemical range of histological techniques capable of revealing more and more elements of those butterflies of the soul that he tirelessly pursued in any animal, vertebrate or invertebrate, to decipher the mystery of its development and functioning in neural terms [5].
«Cajal saw life in the fabric that he was fixed on» (Juan A. de Carlos, scientist at the Cajal Institute) [6]

Distinguished in 1905 with the Helmholtz medal from the Royal Academy of Berlin for considering him responsible for the greatest contribution to European science in the previous two years, his international recognition continued to grow after the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared in 1906. with the Italian Camillo Golgi [7] [8].
A man of science if ever there was one, he was nevertheless faithful to the letters with which he described to the scientific world his findings [9]. Some letters that he cultivated to disseminate in his “Marvels of histology” signed as “Professor Bacteria” [10]; entertain in his “Vacation Tales (Pseudoscientific Narratives)” (1905); instruct with their “Color Photography. Scientific bases and practical rules»; or reflect with essays such as «The world seen at 80 years old; impressions of an arteriosclerotic person” [11].
Committed more to doing and less to appearing, he never accepted positions of political content. A patriot to the core, he took on as his personal goal to provide Spain with a scientific and educational base that would encourage future research vocations and open the horizon of knowledge, a dream that began to materialize with his initiatives in the Board of Expansion of Studies. With honesty, rigor and creativity, Cajal managed to place his Madrid laboratory at the epicenter of neuroscientific knowledge at the beginning of the 20th century, without losing sight of the need to model “original brains” in his students [12][13], whom he dedicates his “Rules and Advice on Scientific Research (The Tonics of the Will)”:

«May this humble pamphlet that we address to studious youth, serve to increase the love of laboratory tasks, as well as to encourage the somewhat diminished hopes, after recent and overwhelming disasters, of the believers in our intellectual and scientist!” (Santiago Ramón y Cajal, December 20, 1898)


Like fine rain, the Cajalian style permeated his collaborators until the Spanish Neurohistological School became the best scientific heritage of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. A school that has written the most outstanding pages of Spanish medicine and science [14][15]. Unfortunately, the Civil War cut short the plans and the post-war period was responsible for once again clouding a Spanish scientific landscape that continues to be obscured by the dark clouds of precariousness, lack of means and the absence of true policies in favor of science.
Meanwhile, the 22,273 assets that make up the Cajal Legacy [16][17] [18] [19] are still stored in a small room “fireproof and with all kinds of controls,” explains Fernando de Castro Soubriet, for whom:

«The fact that there is not a Museum of Cajal and the Spanish Neurological School is a crime against the country […] in which leaders of all kinds have committed: politicians, media and intellectual classes»

Santiago Ramón y Cajal showed us the way. Maybe it’s just time to be inspired by the teacher again. We make it easy for you with our #neurobaja, the rap by Alberto Bravo from the Guide and this interactive image that we have prepared for Brain Week. 👇

Have you been curious and want to know more?


[1] Santiago before Ramón y Cajal: a thousand and one pranks of the first Spanish Nobel Prize winner. Interview with Juan A. de Carlos, 07/25/2021. elDiarioes YouTube Channel.

[2] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (II): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: the wayward schoolboy and his personal influences. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 07/27/2021

[3] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (V): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: the photographer, artist and inventor. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 07/30/2021

[4] Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Art and science. UNED documentary about the exhibition at the Casa Encendida in Madrid of the Obra Social Caja Madrid. YouTube Channel UNED Documents, 06/14/2012

[5] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (III): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: the decipherer of the brain. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 07/28/2021

[6] Alonso, JR. and Juan A. De Carlos (2018). Cajal. A cry for Science, Next Door Editorial, p. 175

[7] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (I): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: in the same league as Einstein or Newton. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 07/26/2021

[8] «On the shoulders of giants» (2020) Cajal Series, his School and his Legacy (episode 1: Cajal). Manuel Seara, RNE, 18-X-2020 (intervention by Fernando de Castro S.:, from min 24:05 to min 32:20).


[9] Spanish Society of Neuroscience (SENC). Biography of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

[10] Santiago Ramón y Cajal as a scientific communicator. RNE mornings with Pepa Fernández – Second hour – 02/25/21 ( «Cerebropolis», with Jose Ramón Alonso (from minute 14:30) the-mornings-of-rne-with-pepa-fernandez/second-hour-25-02-21/5803490/

[11] Santiago Ramón y Cajal: chronology of works. Libraries and Documentation.

[12] Rules and advice on scientific research (the tonics of the will). Speech read on the occasion of the author’s reception at the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences. Madrid: [s.n], 1920.

[13] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (III): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: the scientific manager and educational visionary. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 07/29/2021

[14] «On the shoulders of giants» (2020) Cajal Series, his School and his Legacy (episode 2: Cajal, part two). Manuel Seara, RNE, 15-XI-2020 (intervention by Fernando de Castro S.):, from min 32:55 to min 40:20).

[15] Podcast series “The universe in his brain” (VIII): Santiago Ramón y Cajal: The Histological School and his disciples. Álvaro Bravo, broadcast on RNE on 08/04/2021

[16]The Cajal Legacy. CSIC Website

[17] The Legacy of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The Santiago Ramón y Cajal Archive and the Spanish School of Neurohistology. Website of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

[18] Manuel ANSEDE: A Cajal Museum without Cajal. Science/Matter, El País 02/20/2019

[19] Series of manifestos for a Cajal Museum: Why is a Cajal Museum necessary?


[20] ART & SCIENCE, CONNEXIONS. The drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Exhibition from April 6, 2022 to May 8, 2022. College of Spain in Paris.

UBU Investiga YouTube Channel (Univ. of Burgos). Santiago Ramón y Cajal and neuroscience (drawn biography, very visual). 03/11/2020
Today Murcia. Cadena Ser. Interview with Fernando de Castro Soubriet on 02/09/2022, on the occasion of the Education for the 21st Century Conference. Spanish people/

Networks. Networks and neurons. Tribute to Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Presented by Eduard Punset. Issued on 02.07.2013

The literary work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

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