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Renowned scientists and doctors who have passed through the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia

Miércoles, 30 de september de 2020
  • Amphitheater of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia

The building that occupies the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia (RAMC) is a unique heritage space in Barcelona not only for its beauty, but also for the history of science that brings us closer.

First headquarters of the College of Surgery of Barcelona and after the Faculty of Medicine, until reaching its current role, it has hosted unrepeatable moments and renowned doctors. Can we delve into its past and meet some of the renowned characters who stepped on the emblematic institution?

Pere Virgili. Known as the last barber in Spain, he practiced this trade until he was 14 years old, when he went to the Tarragona Hospital to train as a bleeder. Later, he studied medicine in Montpellier and ended up specializing in surgery. In 1724 he entered the Army as a surgeon, where he changed location and position, until, seeing the lack of knowledge in the trade, in 1748 he went to Fernando VI to found a college in Cádiz where he could train new surgeons for the Navy. As a result of this first success, the creation of the Royal College of Surgery of Barcelona (current RAMC), inaugurated in 1764, was authorized and Pere Virgili was the promoter of both this institution and the construction of its anatomical amphitheater.

Antoni de Gimbernat. The son of wealthy peasants, he studied surgery in Cádiz. Upon graduation, in 1765 Virgili asked him to work as professor of anatomy at the Royal College of Surgery of Barcelona and he was also appointed senior surgeon at the Santa Creu Hospital. After contributing to the creation of a similar school in Madrid, in 1801 he was appointed First Royal Surgeon and, consequently, president of all the Colleges of Surgery in Spain. Antoni de Gimbernat was one of the fathers of modern surgery in Spain. After learning new techniques in the hospitals of European cities, he observed that the images of the human body contained in the books did not prepare well for operations, and began the project of recreating the human body in wax to have three-dimensional models.

Moisès Broggi. After becoming an entire entity in the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona during the Franco regime, he served as a surgeon for the International Brigades that fought in Spain during the Civil War, but was later retaliated in the post-war period and dedicated himself to the private sector. In 1966 he became a member of the RAMC and its president from 1979 to 1966. For his career he was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi.

Alexander Fleming.The Nobel Prize winner and renowned discoverer of penicillin visited Barcelona in 1948 to attend a series of conferences that took place at the Academy. In fact, he was given a solemn reception in the anatomical amphitheater, and he was awarded the title of Honorary Academician of the institution. In addition, it has a dedicated Doctor Fleming Gardens behind the building.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal. It is another Nobel Prize in Medicine that passed through the RAMC, but in this case with more permanence. He taught in the amphitheater for 5 years, from 1887 to 1892, when he was professor of Histology and Pathological Anatomy at the Barcelona Faculty of Medicine. What's more, he lived on Notariat’s street, and it was there that he developed his neural theory, key to current neuroscience. He was not a member of the RAMC due to his short stay in Barcelona, ​​but he was awarded the title of Honorary Academician in 1922.

César Comas and Agustí Prió. They are considered the introducers of X-rays in Spain, since they made the first one on the marble table of the anatomical amphitheater of the Academy, in a public and solemn act, on February 24, 1896. In fact, they jointly opened a cabinet of Roentgenology, and Comas was a radiologist at the Faculty of Medicine between 1908 and 1944. They always used the same hand to take the X-ray, so that Comas had to amputate his left forearm, and his cousin Prió died as a result of his overexposure to radioactivity. Quite a sacrifice for science.

August Pi i Sunyer. The son of the doctor Jaume Pi i Sunyer and a graduate in medicine from the University of Barcelona followed his father's vocation and devoted his life as a researcher and professor in the field. Thus, he had a great evolution within the RAMC: he was appointed national corresponding academic in 1901, permanent academic in 1910, vice president in 1927, and finally became president immediately after the premature death of his predecessor, until 1935. In fact, his influence It was decisive in the institution, with an increase in the activities that were held and its transfer in 1929 from its old location on Banys Nous’ street to the building built in the time of Carlos III for the Royal College of Surgery, and occupied until 1907 by the Faculty of Medicine.

Antoni Mendoza. On February 16, 1847, this surgeon performed the first surgical intervention with anesthesia in Barcelona at the Santa Creu’s Hospital. The professor in Surgical Anatomy was also one of the first representatives of positivist medicine in Catalonia. He held the vice-presidency of the RAMC between 1865 and 1866 and promoted the magazine "The Medical Compiler" (1865-69), considered the first press organ of the institution.

Bartolomeu Robert. Professor of Internal Pathology at the University of Barcelona, ​​mayor of the city in 1899, deputy in Congress in 1901 and one of the founders of the Regionalist League; Bartolomeu Robert developed his life between politics and science. He was vice president of the Academy for the biennium 1881-1882 and president from 1883 to 1890, before entering his second facet.

Dolores Aleu. She is a reference for a woman ahead of her time, one of the top three doctors in Spain and the only one who practiced the medical profession. Her trace to the RAMC is very hidden, but she studied in an environment where medicine seemed to be reserved for men and her doctoral thesis can be found ("On the need to lead the hygienic-moral education of women down the new path"). Very little is known about her, only thanks to some writings that have remained, and after successfully passing her medical career, she encountered obstacles to being officially recognized. He opened a consultation where he treated women of all social conditions and gave them advice on health and motherhood. Her son, who followed in her footsteps, died of tuberculosis and Aleu, dejected for not having been able to save her, died.

Martina Castells. Another of the first three doctors in Spain and the first doctor. She agreed in the studies with Dolores Aleu, but unlike her, she did not exercise, since she died at the age of 31 due to nephritis during pregnancy. Behind of Sant Llàtzer’s chapel, in the Padró’s square, there are gardens dedicated to her.

If you want to know more about the history of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia, the hidden secrets of the building and details of the great scientists and doctors who passed, we offer you guided tours every week.

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