Looking, Drawing, Thinking with Santiago Ramón y Cajal


Drawing research around 1900. Research networks and knowledge transfer. Conference on the occasion of the 90th death anniversary of the Spanish neuroanatomist Ramón y Cajal









Looking, Drawing, Thinking with Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Erna Fiorentini (KIT Karlsruhe, Germany)

We navigate with Santiago Ramón y Cajal through his practice of observation, through his process of drawing as an instrument of thought and cognition, and through his images as visible constructions of knowledge. Cajal's strategy of making visible was based on both rational and aesthetic visual sensibility: for him, their interplay was the constitutive force of knowledge production. I discuss this fundamental attitude toward visually accessed knowledge in terms of an "aesthetic epistemology" that reveals Cajal as a unique scientific personality.


Biography of Ramón y Cajal, significance for modern neuroscience

Alberto J. Schuhmacher (Zaragoza, Spain)

We will explore the biography of Santiago Ram6n y Cajal, paying special attention to his childhood and youth. We will begin by understanding his origins and his relationship with his severe father, Don Justo. We will discover that Cajal was a curious, mischievous boy, a bad student, a draftsman, a photographer, and a writer. We will review the events that led to the making of the man, the scientist, and the intellectual.

Cajal's scientific life reflects the passion put in the service of an idea. By identifying the neuron as the fundamental unit of the central nervous system, he laid the foundations of modern neuroscience. He proposed ideas that continue to be proven almost a century later.

We are immersed in a biomedical revolution. The next great challenge is the brain. We will explore how new neurotechnologies are going to transform medicine, the economy, and the society of the future. We will consider the risks involved and how it should be ensured that this new revolution based on neurosciences is channeled for the benefit of all humanity through the incorporation of Neurorights into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Albert von Koelliker and the discovery of Cajal - networks, scientific societies and the transfer of knowledge in the 19th century

Jonas Eufinger (Würzburg, Germany)

In October 1889, the Spanish neurohistologist Santiago Ram6n y Cajal presented his discovery of free nerve endings to the Anatomical Society in Berlin for the first time. Although many smiled at him for his discovery - the textbooks of the time did not yet know of nerve cells and described the nervous system as a unit of nerve fibers - he attracted the attention of Würzburg anatomist and histologist Albert von Koelliker. Koelliker, a native of Switzerland, had spent decades in histological teaching and research, becoming a luminary in his field and had the necessary connections to make Cajal and his scientific discovery known within a very short time. The relationship between the two researchers shows the importance of scientific networks and professional societies in the scientific world of the 19th century and the role that Würzburg played as a medical center. lt is not only high-ranking names such as the Berlin pathologist Rudolf Virchow or the first Nobel Prize winner in physics, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, that appear, but also the general question of which factors contributed to the transfer of knowledge.


Neural Narratives: Exploring Early Cajal Drawings and Contemporary Neuroscientific Images

Miguel Ángel Rego (Madrid, Spain)

The first part of this communication focuses on the early drawings of Santiago Ram6n y Cajal, depicted through lithographs in the scientist's first two published monographs. Through his "Diary of Observations"-a sketchbook­we will analyze their cultural and temporal context, situating them within a transnational network of scientific knowledge under both external and personal influences. The decisions made in the production of his drawings were mediated by the calcographic possibilities of his time, as well as their refinement. These mediations are factors to include in his contributions to the understanding of the nervous system. The second part is dedicated to the introduction of the hybrid technology of Computed Tomography, its construction as an image in transition from the analog to the digital regime, where we will analyze the decisions made in obtaining this type of image. We will conclude with a proposal within research based on artistic practices: the video installation titled Soliloquium. In this work, several of the conclusions from the epistemic study of Santiago Ram6n y Cajal's drawings are considered to offer a contemporary interpretation of images related to the central nervous system from the perspective of visual arts.