Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Santiago Felipe Ramón y Cajal (1852 - 1934)

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Dr Santiago Felipe Ramón y Cajal
Born in Petilla de Aragón, Navarra, Españamap
Husband of — married about (to about ) in Zaragoza, Aragón, Españamap [uncertain]
[children unknown]
Died in Madrid, Españamap
Profile last modified | Created 9 Nov 2015
This page has been accessed 363 times.

Categories: Notables | Nobel Laureates of the 20th Century | Spanish Doctors | Spanish Scientific Investigators | Petilla de Aragón, Navarre.

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Santiago Felipe Ramón y Cajal [1] is considered the father of modern neuroscience for his outstanding studies of microanatomy, his observations regarding degeneration and regeneration, and his theories about the function, development and plasticity of virtually the whole central nervous system. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1906, which he shared with the Italian, Camilo Golgi. Over 110 years later, his work continues to captivate and stimulate modern neuroscientists. [2]

Purkinje Cell

Santiago was born in a modest family on 01 May 1852 in Petilla de Aragón, Navarre, Spain, and died on 17 Oct 1934 in Madrid, Madrid, Spain. [3] He is buried at Almudena Cementery, Madrid, Madrid, Spain, [4] as is his wife, Silveria Fañanás García. [5] He was the son of Justo Ramón Casasús (abt 1822-abt 1903) , a rural physician and anatomy lecturer, and Antonia Cajal Puente (abt 1819-abt 1898). Both parents were from Lárres, Huesca, Spain. Justo and Antonia had 4 children: [6] [7] [8]

  1. Santiago Felipe Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934)
  2. Pedro Ramón y Cajal (1854-1950)
  3. Pabla (Paula) Ramón y Cajal (abt 1857-abt 1944)
  4. Jorja Ramón y Cajál (abt 1859-abt 1948)

Santiago had disciplinary problems as a child and was forced to switch schools several times, despite his obvious intelligence. [9] He was an avid painter, artist, and gymnast, but his father neither appreciated nor encouraged these abilities, even though these artistic talents would contribute to his success later in life. At one point, his father apprenticed him to a barber, then a shoemaker. Santiago eventually returned to his studies and

1910 Nucleoli and Organelle

attended the medical school of the University of Zaragoza, where his father was an anatomy teacher. He graduated in 1873, aged 21. After a competitive examination, he served as a medical officer in the Spanish Army, in the 1874-1875 Campaign, [10] a coveted position, despite its hazards. After contracting malaria and tuberculosis in Cuba, he traveled to the Pyrenees town of Panticosa for rehabilitation. However, his health suffered severely and he almost died. [9] After returning to Spain, he received his doctorate in medicine in Madrid in 1877 and worked at the University of Zaragoza until 1883, when he was awarded the position of anatomy professor at the University of Valencia. His work at the university focused on the study of inflammation, cholera and epithelial cells. [10] Santiago moved in 1887 to the University of Barcelona, as Professor of Histology and Pathological Anatomy and in 1892 he was appointed to the same Chair at Madrid. In 1900-1901 he was appointed Director of the "Instituto Nacional de Higiene" and of the "Investigaciones Biológicas". [11] It is in this period when he began work on the central nervous system. He was to make his greatest contributions in the field of neuroanatomy, finding evidence of the so-called "neuron doctrine" and dendritic spines. He discovered a cell that came to bear his name: the interstitial cell of Cajal, or ICC. His work on the structure of the brain during these years helped to shape the field of modern neuroscience. [9]

Santiago was obsessed with chess (to the point that he had to stop playing), enjoyed "tertulias" (informal meetings, often in cafés, among like-minded, educated people to talk about current affairs, science, arts, etc.), [12] enjoyed photography (he and his wife opened a Photography Studio to make ends meet) [5] and was very interested in hypnosis and psychology. In fact, at one time he planned to publish three psychological books, but desisted, judging their content to be too speculative. [13] In 1877, he joined a Masonic lodge. John Brande Trend (British Hispanist at Cambridge) wrote in 1965 that Ramón y Cajal "was a liberal in politics, an evolutionist in philosophy, an agnostic in religion". [10]

Santiago married Silveria Petra Josefa Fañanás García (abt 1854-abt 1930) with whom he had four daughters and three sons. [8] [10] [14] [15]

  1. Felina (Fe) Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1880- )
  2. Santiago Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1882-abt 1912)
  3. Francisca Paula Vicenta Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1884- )
  4. Jorge Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1885-abt 1936)
  5. Enriqueta Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (1887-1891)
  6. Pilar Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1890- )
  7. Luis Ramón y Cajal Fañanás (abt 1892-abt 1986)

Much has been written about this marriage. It took place at the church of San Pablo in Zaragoza, around 19 Jul 1879. [5] Santiago sacrificed much to his vocation: family, time, money, economy, hobbies, [16] and as a man of his time, had a typically unenlightened approach to women's rights. Despite all, what transpires in his writings is the complete opposite; his words convey his utter devotion to his wife. [5]

1900 Mammalian Retina

The wedding did not have family approval and was described as crazy by both family and friends. Always stubborn, Santiago went ahead with his plans to marry. His father did not attend the wedding and probably prevented other family members from doing so as well. The only relative who accompanied Santiago was his best friend, his brother Pedro, who had just returned from his Latin American adventures (he fought with the guerilla in Uruguay and was missing 7 years) [17] and was studying medicine in Zaragoza. It was a wedding without celebration or public. [5]

Fortunately, the dire predictions made by all did not come to pass. The care of his wife was decisive in the recovery of his health. The first four years after the wedding, Santiago was fully dedicated to an overwhelming number of activities. She, in turn, totally subordinated herself to her husband's career. [5] She has been described as a beautiful girl, of withdrawn character, unsociable, somewhat uncouth, a hard worker, submissive, in love with her husband and thrifty to uncomfortable extremes. [5]

1899 Cerebral Cortex

However, thanks to this humble, uncultured, young girl, Santiago was able to reach his potential. She was the ideal companion for him, not only did she take the full responsibility of the house and family on her shoulders, she was also his assistant in the laboratory and, more than once, his "economic salvation" in the most necessary and difficult moments. It is said that when Santiago was desperate because the Ministry and the University would not help him economically, it was she who saved the sum he needed for the Congress of the German Anatomical Society, held in Berlin in Oct 1889, where he presented his discoveries about the nervous system. [18] Most importantly, Silveria believed in him, supported him unconditionally and encouraged his dreams and his ambitions. [5] At the German Congress, Santiago managed to convince Albert von Kölliker, the highest authority in the histological field, about his theories. Von Kölliker performed the labors of confirmation of his work and supported his contributions definitively. Soon after, almost all the main European neuro-histologists also assimilated them and accepted Santiago's premises of the structure of the nervous system. [3]

Santiago's achievements are many. He made major contributions to neuroanatomy, maintained continued efforts to improve the state of scientific research and education in Spain, received many prizes, distinctions, and societal memberships during his scientific career, including, as stated before, the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1906, together with the Italian scientist Camillo Golgi. He published more than 100 scientific works and articles in Spanish, French and German. [10] He published the first of the three volumes of his principal life's work in 1899, Texture of the Nervous System of Man and the Vertebrates. The last volume was published in 1904. This book remains the definitive work on the morphology of the vertebrate nervous system. In it, he describes the structure and organization of virtually all parts of the nervous system and discusses his theories, including the neuron doctrine and the law of functional polarization, which are the cornerstones of modern neurobiology. Over a century later, his work is still fundamental to understanding the nervous system. [19]

1896 Dendritic Spines

His anatomical drawings, some of which can be viewed on this page, are remarkable illustrations of brain cells, brain regions, and neural circuits. They have been exhibited at different times and many are housed at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, a neuroscience Research Center assigned to the Spanish Research Council. [2] An exhibition called The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal has been travelling through the US and Canada since 2017. It began at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis and is ending April 2019 at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. [20] Hundreds of his drawings illustrating the delicate arborizations of brain cells are still in use for educational and training purposes. [10]

Santiago founded an important school that carried out works in the histology of the nervous system. His main direct disciples were Jorge Francisco Tello, Domingo Sanchez Sanchez, Fernando de Castro and Rafael Lorente de No. The international impact of his work, which was extraordinary in his time, remains largely current, which is reflected not only in the numerous reprints of his works in various languages, but in the very high numbers of citations he continues to receive in publications on neurosciences and related disciplines. [3]

He received a noble title posthumously in 1952, the Marquisate of Ramón y Cajal I. His great granddaughter, María Ramón y Cajal Conejero, is the current holder of the title, Marchioness of Ramón y Cajal II. [15]


  1. _ Fernández, Juan, García, Pedro, & Sánchez, José Manuel. Santiago Ramón Cajal: Un Siglo Después del Premio Nobel. Fundación Marcelino Botín, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 _ Instituto Cajal (neuroscience research center assigned to the Spanish Research Council (CSIC)): Santiago Ramón y Cajal."Legacy of Cajal"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 _ López, José María, "Santiago Ramón y Cajal", Real Academia de Historia, Diccionario Biográfico Electrónico
  4. _ FIND A GRAVE: Santiago Ramón y Cajal on 17 Oct 1934, accessed 17 September 2018
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 _ Neurociencia, El Blog de José Ramón Alonso: Cajal, Esposo, 2014.
  6. _ Blog Casa Ubieto: Cuadro de familia de los Ramón Cajal Casasús Puente
  7. _ (magazine): Justo Ramón Casasús, Nº 117
  8. 8.0 8.1 _ Wikipedia: Cronología de la Vida de Santiago Ramon y Cajal, descargado 17 septiembre 2018
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 _ Santiago Ramón y Cajal Biography, published 01 Apr 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 _ Wikipedia (EN): Santiago Ramón y Cajal, accessed 17 September 2018
  11. _ The Nobel Prize: Santiago Ramón y Cajal
  12. _ El Cultural (Magazine): Calvo, Antonio, "Se publica una nueva biografía del científico español Cajal, Triunfar a todo Costa", 28 Feb 1999.
  13. _ (Blog): Ehrlich, Ben, "Read the Lost Dream Journal of the Man Who Discovered Neurons", 22 Jun 2017.
  14. _ Blog Casa Ubieto: Cuadro de los Ramón y Cajal-Fañanás García
  15. 15.0 15.1 _ Wikipedia: Marquesado de Ramón y Cajal, descargado 17 septiembre 2018
  16. _ Andalán (digital newspaper), Callabed, Joaquín, " La huella de Santiago Ramón y Cajal en Barcelona", 01 May 2011
  17. _ ABC (Newspaper): Quijada, Pilar, " El hermano revolucionario de Ramón y Cajal que luchó en la guerrilla uruguaya y escapó a dos condenas a muerte", 19 Jan 2017
  18. _ Diario Córdoba, Merino, Julio, "Silveria, una Gran Mujer", 09 Jul 2017
  19. _ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Texture of the Nervous System of Man and the Vertebrates by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (3 Vol)
  20. _ Weisman Art Museum: The Beautiful Brain Exhibit

Find a Grave Entries in this Biography

  1. Santiago Ramón y Cajal: Find A Grave: Memorial #7228993

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Images: 7
Santiago Ramón y Cajal Image 1
Santiago Ramón y Cajal Image 1

Purkinje Cell
Purkinje Cell

Nucleoli and Organelle
Nucleoli and Organelle

Dendritic Spines
Dendritic Spines


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