Santiago Ramón y Cajal


Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1906

Born: 1 May 1852, Petilla de Aragón, Spain

Died: 17 October 1934, Madrid, Spain

Affiliation at the time of the award: Madrid University, Madrid, Spain

Prize motivation: “in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system”

Prize share: 1/2


Santiago Ramón y Cajal was born in Petilla de Aragon in Navarra, Spain, as the son of a doctor. Though he was talented artistically, he chose to study medicine at the University of Zaragoza, where his father lectured in Applied Anatomy. After serving as an army medic, Cajal received his PhD in Madrid in 1877 and became a professor of anatomy at the University of Valencia in 1883. He also held professorships at universities in Barcelona and Madrid as well as serving as Director of the Zaragoza Museum. Cajal was married with seven children.


Our bodies are controlled by the interaction between the brain and the nervous system, which extends throughout the body. Camillo Golgi's discovery in the 1870s that nerve cells could be colored using silver nitrate opened up new opportunities for their study. Cajal began using this method in 1887 and achieved many groundbreaking results in the years that followed. This included proving that each nerve cell is an independent entity and nerve synapses transfer nerve impulses from one cell to another.

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