Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heroes Without Weapons / Dimas Castellanos

Heroes Without Weapons / Dimas Castellanos
Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated

In Cuba, with its pregnant history of violent acts, we pay exaggerated
attention to episodes of war in detriment to other ways of making
history, such as science–forger of knowledge and of culture–that
contributes so much to the formation of nationality the nation and the
country over centuries. On May 19 of this year we will arrive at the
150th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Academy of medical,
physical, and natural sciences of Havana, whose birth was conditioned by
the development reached by the productive forces and by the sustained
and joint effort of Cubans, who from different political and ideological
positions, united their forces for the development of Cuba. In
recognition of these heroes, almost anonymous, I am going to mention
nine of them.

Tomás Romay Chacón (1764-1849). Physician, cofounder of Newsprint of
Havana and of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, made
innumerable contributions to science and culture, but it was in medicine
where he made his greatest contributions; in 1794 he presented to the
Ordinary Meeting of the Patriotic Society of the Friends of the
Country–the first scientific meeting of Cuban doctors–-his dissertation
on the malignant fever commonly called black ball met, and discovered it
introduced vaccination against smallpox, introduced the studies of
anatomy on the cadaver, those of the clinic in the rooms of the hospital
and took students to the sources of the sick and to the morgue to
practice autopsies. He was one of those who petitioned King Fernando VII
about the necessity of creating a science academy on the island. for his
activities in preventing disease and promoting the advancement of
medicine he is considered "the first great Cuban hygienist" and the
initiator of the scientific movement in Cuba. Romay was a man of his
time in class, of the established political system, defender of the
established political system, admirer of the Spanish monarchy, and
intransigent enemy of revolutionary liberalism; irrefutable proof that
one can be a force in science, culture and nationality independent of
political or ideological affiliation.

José Estévez Cantal (1771-1841). Chemist and botanist. Student of Tomás
Romay was probably the first Cuban who received a scientific education
in Europe and the first botanist of some importance. Between them they
worked on a catalog of plants, begun by Baltasar Boldo, considered as
the first floor of Cuba. He was the first Cuban chemist who
distinguished himself in the search for varieties of sugarcane and who
applied this science to a new branch of therapy: medical hydrology.
Thanks to his analysis of the waters of San Diego–the most famous of our
mineral medicinal springs–he was able to take advantage of their healing
properties. Through Estévez botany, chemistry, and mineralogy were
introduced on the island reinvigorating the already advanced movement of
cultural and scientific reform.

Esteban Pichardo Tapia (1799-1879). Lawyer and geographer, born in Santo
Domingo. Considered "the most prominent geographer of Cuba." His
geographic and cartographic work was the basis for the contour map drawn
to scale, made ​​in 1908 by the American Army of Occupation. His main
geographical work was the Route Map of the Roads of Cuba. In 1829 he
presented the Compendium of Geography of the Island of Cuba for use in
colleges and high schools. He also dabbled in literature with a volume
of poems and the Dictionary of Cuban Voices, published in 1836.

Felipe Poey Aloy (1799-1891). Researcher and Professor in Natural
Sciences. In France, where he met Jorge Cuvier, he published his first
entomological studies. In 1838, he presented a project to establish in
Havana a cabinet of natural history, which later became part of the
University of Havana. He studied The sugarcane borer and avocado pests,
bringing wide knowledge of the basics of biology. He is considered "the
initiator of the scientific era in the natural history of Cuba" and was
one of the 30 founding members of the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences,
Physical and Natural Sciences.

Nicolás Gutiérrez José Hernández (1800-1890). Surgeon, founder of the
Havana Medical Journal, Cuba's first magazine devoted exclusively to
medicine. He introduced in Cuba chloroform is a surgical anesthetic. On
the death of Tomás Romay, Nicolás became the principal figure in the
Havana medical community. He was one of the leading personalities in the
struggle to found the Royal Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural
Sciences in Havana, where he held the presidency to which he was
reelected until his death.

Francisco Frias Jacott, Count of Pozos Dulces (1809-1877). Agronomist,
science writer and agrarian reformer. Author of the Agricultural
Development Program, aimed at laying the foundations for a national
identity agro-technology and agro-science to achieve social and economic
equilibrium. An ardent supporter of small farms, small industry and the
work of the peasant family. He was the first speaker at the Royal
Academy of Medical Sciences, Physical and Natural Sciences of Havana, on
the theory of Darwin, and was a defender of the Institute for Chemical
Research, founded in 1848, and in 1861 he was a promoter of the Cuban
Agricultural Institute. In 1868 he was honored for his work: "Report on
the livestock industry on the island of Cuba" and "The scientific basis
on which rests the view that the destruction of the animal kingdom,
involves that of the plant and vice versa."

Francisco Fernández de Lara Albee (1816-1887). Engineer. Between the
repair of the Convent of San Agustín in Havana, his first work, through
the construction of the Isabel II aqueduct, he is found prominently in
all the material construction of that era. His great work with the use
of the waters of the Vento Springs, for which he investigated the entire
relationship between the quality and the transfer of the liquid to the
Palatino reservoirs. Through this he demonstrated the negative influence
of sunlight on the deposited waters; modify the geology of the terrain
to adapt it to protect the canal; and ran it under the Almendares River.
A project that was not repeated until the middle of the 20th century,
when the tunnel under Havana Bay was constructed. For this work he was
awarded, first in Philadelphia and later in Paris, with the gold medal,
while the Royal development board called him "the most famous of Cuban

Aguirre Andrés Poey (1825-1919). Meteorologist. Precursor in Cuba of
research in this field, considered the "true creator of scientific
meteorology in Cuba." In 1848 he prepared an atlas with 28 lithographed
maps for primary schools, the first of its kind printed in Cuba. In 1850
he established an observatory at his home where he undertook atmospheric
research. In 1855 he produced a catalog of hurricanes entitled
"Chronological Table comprising 400 hurricanes and cyclones that have
occurred in the West Indies and the North Atlantic from 1493 to 1855;" a
work considered essential in this matter.

Alvaro Reinoso y Valdés (1829-1888). Chemist, physiologist, agronomist
and industrial technologist. He replaced José Luis Casaseca at the head
of the Chemical Research Institute of Havana, which became the
Agricultural Station. In 1862, when Cuba ranked first in the world in
sugar production, it stood last in agricultural productivity. To the
solution of this contradiction Reynoso devoted all his efforts. In his
masterpiece, "An Essay on the cultivation of sugar cane," published in
1862, he developed a comprehensive system of agro-technical measures to
ensure the intensive cultivation of sugar cane, for which he fully
analyzed all operations related to the cultivation and harvesting of the
grass. Reinoso is considered "Father of the Cuban Scientific
Agriculture." Despite all the time that has passed, Cuba today has not
exceeded the sugar crops of a century ago.

Along with these nine heroes of Cuban science it is necessary to
recognize the contributions of foreign scientists, including Alejandro
Humboldt de Hollwede (1769-1859), José Luís Casaseca Silván (1800-1869)
y Ramón de la Sagra Periz (1798-1871). The first, in many respects, knew
Cuba better than Cuban themselves, the latter is considered the "father
of Cuban chemistry" and the third, the leading Professor of Natural
History, who created and directed the Botanical Garden and the Havana
Institute of Agriculture.

The review of these famous scientists makes a mockery of the absurd
attempt to link homeland and nation with socialism and revolution.

Published in Diario de Cuba ( Friday, May 27, 2011

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