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 Aragón 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. Santiago Ramón y 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. Santiago Ramón y 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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.