The Black Legend establishes for the history of the Spanish Empire a scheme based on the idea of perpetual ruin, where the country seized the world scepter with blows, rapes, and fanaticism after finding by chance a continent that suffered all its excesses; and then he spent until 1898 paying for his sins, his debts, his chronic backwardness and for having been involved in a company beyond his means. According to this widespread idea, the arrogance and blindness of Spain prevented it from catching the train of progress in time, systematically turning its back on its most prepared elites the Jews, the foreign reformists such as Esquilache or the Frenchados of Jose I.
The reality, however, is that no empire is formed by chance or remains falling for five centuries unless it does so at a rate of decline imperceptible to the human eye. The number of Sephardim who came to leave the country may not have exceeded 20,000 people, according to research by the Hispanist Henry Kamen, and “there is no doubt that the Jews were no longer a relevant source of wealth [in Castile and Aragon], neither as bankers nor as tenants of income nor as merchants who carry out business at an international level ”, in the opinion of Joseph Perez collected in his book“ History of a tragedy, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain ”(Barcelona, Review). On February 1, 1792, what was considered the best chemistry laboratory in Europe was inaugurated in the Alcazar of Segovia.
Regarding the reforms from abroad and the Frenchified, it should be remembered that one of the first things that the Napoleonic troops destroyed was the second-largest telescope in the world, which was in Madrid. Because, as the figures show, Spain before the Napoleonic invasion was not far technologically and economically from England or France, and surpassed in many fields other powers such as Prussia, Austria, and Russia. This was the case in chemistry, medicine, or botany. On February 1, 1792, what was considered the best chemistry laboratory in Europe was inaugurated in the Alcazar of Segovia. Also, Spain, alone or associated with other European Courts, carried out 63 expeditions during the Enlightenment, more than any other nation in the world, which earned it the following praise from the traveler and scientist Alexander von Humboldt.
No government has invested larger sums to advance plant knowledge than the Spanish government. Three botanical expeditions, those of Peru, New Granada and New Spain have cost the State some two million francs. All this research, carried out during twenty years in the most fertile regions of the new continent, does not it has only enriched the domains of science with more than four thousand new species of plants; it has also contributed greatly to the diffusion of the taste for natural history among the inhabitants of the country.
Portugal and Spain could not have explored seas, hundreds of islands, and an entire continent alone during the 16th century. Nor could Elcano have completed the first circumnavigation of the earth without a nautical background and technology at the forefront. The Casa de la Contratacion de Sevilla was but one of the main centers of applied science in the world. And of course, you cannot control the battlefields without quality gunners and fortress builders, that is, mathematicians and engineers.
Philip II’s interest in science was proverbial, although the Black Legend (Again, the happy legend!) Wants to present him as a religious fanatic with an interest in occult sciences such as alchemy. The Prudent King founded the first Academy of Sciences and Mathematics (1582) in Europe and one of the first science museums in history based in Valladolid, as well as the promoter of a set of mathematical academies throughout the empire.
That the Spain that he and other kings created was not the scientific desert that the Black Legend has told, and the Spaniards have believed, can be verified with this list of specialists from multiple fields who, in their way, changed the world for the better.
1st first psychiatric center
The myth of the country of the fanatics who dominated the Catholic Monarchs is dismantled with a single fact, Spain had the most extensive network of psychiatric hospitals of that period. At the initiative of the Mercedarian father Juan Gilabert Jofre, the first psychiatric center in the world with a therapeutic organization had been founded in the 15th century in Valencia. He made this decision after witnessing the mistreatment of a madman in a Spanish city. That is why he created a hospice for the mentally ill called the Holy Innocent Martyrs that collected the poor insane and foundlings, a project approved by Pope Benedict XIII and King Martin I of Aragon.
2nd Turriano, a canal to Toledo Juanito
Turriano is known as the Italian watchmaker who accompanied Carlos V in Cuacos de Yuste, but he was much more than that. Born in Cremona around 1500, he came to Spain to build two famous astronomical clocks, the Microcosm, and the Crystalline, capable of indicating the position of the stars at all times. However, the only limit to the number of mills he developed in the country was his imagination, including an automaton with great performance. The most famous was an artifice to raise the water from the Tagus River to the Alcazar of Toledo, located about a hundred meters high. Imperial Spain recruited many internal and external talents like hers for its global enterprise.
3rd Domingo de Soto, Galileo’s forerunner
Domingo de Soto was a Dominican known for his contributions in Theology in Law within the so-called School of Salamanca, but less for his important contribution to Natural Philosophy (Physics). His works on Mechanics, which he exhibited in his book “Quaestiones” in 1551, served as the basis for Galileo’s studies. Among other things, he proposed that the fall of heavy elements obeyed a uniformly accelerated pattern of motion over time, that is, that the rate of fall of an object is directly proportional to time. Another Spaniard, Diego Diest, raised the same approach forty years earlier, although in his case he erroneously assumed that the speed of fall was directly proportional to space traveled rather than time. Error in which Galileo also fell at the beginning, before correcting it as Domingo de Soto had pointed out.
4. Alonso de Santa Cruz and magnetic variation
Exceptionally, the University of Salamanca included in its statutes of 1561 that the chair of Astronomy could read Copernicus, whose great supporter was Juan de Aguilera, professor of astrology at this center from 1550 to 1560. In 1594, reading was declared mandatory and Felipe II himself personally cost, among others, the works of Alonso de Santa Cruz, who was the first to describe magnetic variation, and Juan Lopez Velasco, who described lunar eclipses between 1577 and 1578. The heliocentric theory thus enjoyed great force in Spain, while Calvin was dedicated to attacking Copernicus for daring to place himself above the Holy Spirit and, in 1551, Kaspar Peucer, Melanchthon’s son-in-law and a professor like him at the Protestant University of Wittemberg, asked that his teachings be forbidden.
5. Herrera, the great 16th-century architect
Juan de Herrera was a first-rate mathematician of the 16th century, whose works for Felipe II materialized in bridges, dams, canals and, of course, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, one of the largest constructions of its time, to which used special cranes and techniques that had never been applied at that level. Herrera also created the locks that allowed navigation through the Aranjuez canals. In “His Discourse on the Cubic Figure” he reflected his knowledge of geometry and mathematics, while his participation in some of the military campaigns of Charles V showed that he did not mind getting his hands dirty with clay.
6. Miguel Servet, an Aragonese in Geneva
Philosopher, theologian, philologist, geographer, astronomer, physiologist, and physician. Miguel Servetus is a central figure of the 16th century, whose discovery of blood circulation years later would be fundamental to all medical science. However, the Aragonese is today remembered almost exclusively for his confrontation with the reformists Calvin, who ordered that Servetus be burned outside the walls of Geneva, in an area called Champel, on October 27, 1553. Death was especially agonizing due to that the timbers of the fire were damp and took a long time to burn. Before his death, he included in a theological work the first description in the entire West of the minor circulation, that which occurs between the heart and the lungs to oxygenate the blood, although it had no impact on the scientific community of his time due to be a fairly unknown author. In life, he was only known for writing on syrups that reached six editions.
7. Lastanosa, machine and inventor
Pedro Juan de Lastanosa from Huesca was a 16th-century machine engineer, inventor, and writer on hydraulic works. Assistant to the cosmographer and engineer of Carlos V Jerónimo Girava, he collaborated with him in the translation of Fineo’s “Practical Geometry” and various works of hydraulic engineering. In 1563 he went to the service of Felipe II as “machinist” and “major master of fortifications”, in which position he intervened in various engineering works, such as the Imperial Acequia de Aragon, the irrigation of Murcia, the fortifications of the Alfaques or the measurements to make a map of Spain with Esquivel. He invented several new machines such as a weight mill.
8. Nicolas Monardes, pioneer in botany
Nicolas Monardes was one of the most important authors of the Golden Age of Spanish science, whose work was widely disseminated throughout Europe by botanical descriptions of American species, totally unknown in Europe, such as tomato, potato, or tobacco. In just over a hundred years his works reached forty-two editions in six languages. He was also the first known author to report and describe the phenomenon of Fluorescence (a particular type of luminescence), in his book “Medicinal History” (Seville, 1565), where he describes the strange behavior of certain infusions of Lignum nephriticum.
9.º The 50 inventions of Ayanz and Beaumont
The Navarrese Jeronimo de Ayanz y Beaumont was an inventor, engineer, scientist, administrator of mines, commander, alderman, governor, military man, painter, singer, and music composer of the 16th century who patented fifty inventions. Its innovations include metallurgical methods, precision balances, diving equipment, furnaces, stills, siphons, instruments for measuring performance in machines, hydraulic and windmills, metal roller milling, arch and vault dams, hydraulic spindle pumps, and for bilge of ships, ejectors, and steam engines. Many of these inventions were a century ahead of those that would be developed in England during the Industrial Revolution.
10. Hugo de Omarique and the eulogy of Newton
Antonio Hugo de Omerique was a completely forgotten mathematician from Cadiz who was born in the seventeenth century. It is known that he wrote a treatise on arithmetic and two on geometry that was never published and was lost. Not so his “Geometric Analysis”, very widespread in Europe and which Isaac Newton praised in the best terms. Amerique presented in this work a new method for solving geometric problems, using and developing the proportional ones, something revolutionary for the time. That his work reached England attests that the Spain of the time was connected to Europe.
11. Celestino Mutis: the Jesuit bark
Jose Celestino Mutis y Bosio devoted his life to medicine, geography, the dissemination of useful sciences, the Enlightenment, and the study of the flora and fauna of New Granada. The greatest contribution to the therapeutic science of this priest focused on the study of the botanical, agricultural, commercial, and medical aspects of the exotic drug called “cinchona” or “cascarilla”. This “green gold”, which was extracted from the bark of a species of tree native to South America in the Amazon rainforest, was introduced into Europe by the Jesuits as early as the 17th century as a powerful febrifuge, which was said to be “It was to medicine what gunpowder was to war.”
The use of cinchona to combat malaria, tertiary fevers, and other similar diseases challenged medieval theories that cold diseases had to be fought with hot substances and vice versa. Thanks to the uses found by Mutis, the Spanish Royal Apothecary became the receiving center for these shells of this plant (considered demonic by the Protestant world) and, with this, it became one of the most important scientific temples in Europe.The College of Surgery that he developed, based on a modern medicine curriculum, was copied abroad and exported all over the world.
12.Jorge Juan: the man who measured the earth
The military and scientist Jorge Juan was the first to measure the longitude of the Earth’s meridian in a naval expedition carried out between 1736 and 1744. Protected by the Marquis of Ensenada, who sent him as a spy to England to learn about the naval construction techniques of this country Jorge Juan was rewarded for this task with the appointment in 1752 of Director of the Academy of Marine Guards of Cadiz. There he experimented himself in shipbuilding with results, based on mathematical calculations, that impressed the English. Unfortunately, with the fall of Ensenada, Jorge Juan’s techniques would be discarded in favor of the French type of shipbuilding, more backward but defended by the substitutes of Ensenada. The one known as “the Spanish Wise” abroad drew up in his last years of life a plan for an expedition that would calculate the parallax of the Sun, that is, the exact measurement of its distance from Earth.
13. Antonio de Ulloa the discoverer of platinum
The sailor Antonio de Ulloa was the one who made platinum known to Europe, a chemical element with atomic number 78, which he found in Esmeraldas (Ecuador), although technically who appears as its discoverer is a British author who studied its properties. Ulloa, who in any case gave the name and the publicity to the element, participated in multiple scientific tasks and contributed to the fact that the Navy was an enlightened body under the protection also of Ensenada.
14. Felix de Azara, fundamental for Darwin
Félix de Azara was a Spanish military man, cartographer, and scientist sent to Paraguay by Carlos III to draw the borders of the Spanish Empire. Bored by his military task, Azara devoted himself to cataloging up to 448 species (preferably birds), correcting along the way the identification and description of many South American species that the famous French Count of Buffon had noted wrongly. His work made it easier for Charles Darwin to develop his theory on “The Origin of Species”, as the British himself recognized. The English naturalist who developed the idea of biological evolution through natural selection quotes Felix de Azara fifteen times in his “Diary of a naturalist’s journey around the world”, twice in “The Origin of Species” and a “The origin of man.
15. The Spanish discoverer of vanadium
Although Spain does not appear as the discoverer of platinum, it does so in two other chemical elements. One of them vanadium, unfairly attributed jointly to a Swede and a Spaniard. And it is that in 1801 when examining mineral samples from Zimapan in the current state of Hidalgo in Mexico, Andres Manuel del Rio from Madrid came to the conclusion that he had found a new metallic element. A year later he gave samples of his find to Alexander von Humboldt, who sent them to Hippolyte Victor Collet-Descotils in Paris for analysis. Del Rio retracted his claim, but thirty years later the element was rediscovered in 1831 while Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström was working on an oxide obtained from iron ores. Collet-Descotils analyzed the samples and wrongly reported that they contained only chromium, so von Humboldt, in turn, rejected Del Río’s claim for a new element. Del Río publicly rectified it, but thirty years later the element was discovered again, in 1831, while the Swede Nils Gabriel Sefstrom was working on an oxide obtained from iron ores. Sefstrom called it vanadium in honor of the Scandinavian goddess Vanadis, a name that it officially maintains today.
16th Discoverer of the thenardite
The professor of Chemistry at the Royal Conservatory of Arts Jose Luis Casaseca y Silvan also finds it difficult to link his name with his discovery, although in his case it is due to his humility. In 1826, he managed to find the mineral “Thenardite”, but he himself requested that the name be given to the Frenchman L. J. Thenard, who had been his teacher for three years in Paris. His generosity played against his fame.
17. Tungsten, a rare metal
Only wolfram or tungsten appears as a chemical element isolated exclusively in Spanish territory, in their case by the brothers Fausto and Juan José Elhuyar around 1783. This scarce and very valuable metal was the first chemical element discovered without being directly extracted from nature. since it did not exist in free form, without chemically combining.
18. An expedition that changed the world
The doctor Javier Balmis y Berenguer is better known for his contribution to humanitarian causes than for the glory of science, although the two are closely related. This military man who became the personal physician of Carlos IV convinced this King and his ministers to promote an expedition that would spread, altruistically, the smallpox vaccine throughout the globe. The Royal Smallpox Vaccine Philanthropic Expedition (1803-1814) toured La Coruña, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Texas, Colombia, Chile, the Philippines and even made several incursions into Chinese territory. That saved an indeterminate number of lives from a disease that, as Javier Santamarta del Pozo fully narrates in his work “We always had heroes” (EDAF), rich or poor, everyone suffered throughout their lives.
19. The ingenuity that St. Petersburg planned
Agustín de Betancourt was one of the most influential European scientists of his time. This civil and military engineer, architect, essayist, the precursor of radio, telegraphy, and thermodynamics worked for the Kingdom of Spain and the Russian Empire on various projects. Commissioned by Tsar Alexander I, he designed and planned the urban development of several Russian cities, including Saint Petersburg. He also designed the first continental steam engine and several hot air balloons. For Spain, he founded the first School of Civil Engineering in 1802.
20. Contribution to the fight against cholera
Jaume Ferrán I Clua, a doctor and bacteriologist at the end of the 19th century, developed a vaccine against cholera, with great success in its use in an epidemic in Valencia, and also discovered cures against typhus and tuberculosis.
21. A revolutionary calculator
Ramon Silvestre Verea (1833-1899), created the most advanced calculator of his time, capable of direct multiplication, an innovation that made the calculators of the time that only performed basic sums obsolete. The apparatus of Spanish began to take shape in New York, where he worked as a journalist. He trained in engineering and mechanics on his own, studies that culminated in 1878 with the creation of this calculator formed by a metal cylinder with ten sides, each of which had a column of holes with another ten different diameters. With a single movement of the handle, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division were achieved. Vera, from Pontevedra, was never interested enough in marketing the calculator. His innovative system of cylinders served him to appear in Scientific American magazine and to win a medal at the World Exhibition of Inventions of Cuba in 1878.
Today, yellow fever or black vomit (also called the American plague) is a disease that only makes headlines in Africa and underdeveloped regions. However, for a long time,this pathology transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes and Haemagogus genera was a drag on the population and colonization process of America, especially in the subtropical and tropical areas of South America, since it mainly affected those who came from Europe. The transmission of yellow fever was for centuries a mystery to science until, in 1881, the Spanish Carlos Finlay discovered the role of the mosquito that transmits it.
22nd Juan Carlos Finlay Barres
Juan Carlos Finlay Barres (Port-au-Prince, Cuba) carried out important studies on the spread of cholera in Havana from 1868. His main contribution to world science was his explanation of the mode of transmission of yellow fever, which for years it was debated and discarded by other scientists. Finlay and his only collaborator, the also Spanish doctor Claudio Delgado Amestoy, carried out, from the year 1881 itself, a series of experimental inoculations to try to demonstrate to the world that it was transmitted by mosquitoes. Between 1893, 1894, and 1898, Finlay published worldwide the main measures that should be taken to avoid yellow fever epidemics, the destruction of the larvae of transmitting mosquitoes in their breeding sites and prevention in wetter seasons. Despite the persistent doubts of the scientific community, his eradication method managed to eliminate the disease from Havana around 1901, and in a few years, it became a rare bird in the Caribbean. In 1902, when the independence of Cuba was proclaimed, Finlay was appointed Chief of Health of the new state. From this position, he faced the last great yellow fever epidemic that was registered in Havana, in 1905, which was eliminated in a matter of three months.
23.Pages Mirave, the inventor of the epidural
Fidel Pagés Mirave was a 19th-century military doctor who worked in Melilla during the Rif War, where he was able to test an experimental method to anesthetize the wounded in the conflict, who were not few. In June 1921, Fidel Pages published in a magazine founded by him his method, which he called Anesthesia Metamerica, which is now known as epidural, which barely had an echo in the international community. Achilles Dogliotti, an Italian physician, claimed credit for discovering epidural anesthesia in 1932 after probably reading the article by Pages, who died a decade earlier. The international community applauded the contribution of Italian medicine to the universal heritage.
24. The best airship of its time was Spanish
Leonardo Torres Quevedo was a Cantabrian civil engineer who outstandingly directed the Applied Mechanics Laboratory and developed the first Spanish airship, far above the rest of the European models. The French company Astra took good note of this and bought the patent from him. Tireless, the Cantabrian is also known for designing the first mechanical cable car and the first calculating machine.
25th The drama of the Peral submarine
Isaac Peral did not invent the submarine as such, but this scientist, sailor, and a military man from Cartagena, a naval lieutenant, developed the first torpedo submarine that was propelled utilizing electrical energy. His ship passed technical tests, but the authorities scrapped Peral’s invention, who after retiring from the Navy set about reestablishing his damaged prestige.26.º The first electronic book The school teacher Angela Ruiz Robles invented “the mechanical book” in the 1940s, considered a direct precedent for the electronic book. The ingenuity displayed themes of knowledge and interconnected them through a system of springs and compressed air that included lights and electronic circuits. All this is compressed in the space that a school case occupies. Alberto G. Ibanez recalls in his book “The Black Legend: History of Hate to Spain” (Almuzara) that this widowed woman with three daughters, besides, patented in 1962 another prototype of a book that “was recharged with reels containing the lessons that should be studied; from English, language or mathematics . His invention was never commercialized.
27. The inventor of synthetic oil
The Aragonese Rafael Sunen invented synthetic oil from charcoal, a much cheaper formula. As Alberto G. Ibanez also explains in “The Black Legend History of Hate to Spain” (Almuzara), his innovation attracted the interest of the French and British governments, but he refused, “determined to have it exploited in Spain. When the Civil War began, he was arrested by the Republican government in Madrid and entered the Modelo prison, from where he would “disappear” like so many others of the time . His diving suit is considered one of the greatest European contributions to the conquest of space.
28. Herrera Linares: the first spacesuit
In the 1930s, the military engineer Emilio Herrera Linares designed an aerostat measuring 24,000 cubic meters, 36 meters in diameter and weighing 1,740 kilos, to exceed 20,000 meters in height. To reach that height, Herrera understood that he needed a suitable suit, with a three-layer coating, “As a result of these studies and subsequent tests, the first space diving suit that has ever existed and been tested in the world was built,” he noted. the Grenadian.
29th First portable X-ray machine
Monico Sanchez was a Clunian ingenuity who invented in 1907 the portable X-ray machine, approximately ten kilograms, used in many European and American hospitals. His invention saved many lives and placed him among the most in-demand scientists in the United States, where he went on to work as an engineer. He was also a pioneer of wireless telephony.
30th Inventor of the Autogyro
The Murcian Juan de la Cierva, the engineer of roads, channels, and ports, was the inventor of the gyrocopter and a pioneer of the air worldwide. The Cierva Autogiro Company LTD, based in London, supplied these devices around the world and made him a media figure. Upon landing in the US, he had the luxury of arriving at the controls of his gyroplane in the White House garden, where he was entertained by President H. C. Hoover. On September 18, 1928, he increased his world fame after being able to cross the English Channel for the first time with his ingenuity.
31st Pioneering ear surgery
Antolí Candela, a 20th-century surgeon, was a pioneer in stapedectomy operations and in restoring hearing to the deaf. The Valencian provided the first plastic surgery actions under asepsis and endonasal anesthesia, including novel decortication treatments in rhinophyma. He also practiced pharyngology.
32. A master of magnetism
Blas Cabrera was a Spanish physicist, director of the Physical Research Laboratory between 1910 and 1937, who sneaked into the great minds of his generation thanks to his work on magnetism, which in many cases is still valid today. His two fundamental contributions to world science were modifying the Curie-Weiss law for rare earth and obtaining an equation for the magnetic atomic moment that included the effect of temperature. His research was published in the most important scientific journals, he was invited to the most prominent physics conferences and was elected, in 1928, as a member of the Commission Scientifique Internationale of the Institute Internationale de Physique Solvay (of which Langevin, Bohr, Marie Curie, de Donder, Einstein, Guye, Knudsen, and Richardson).
Once the Civil War ended, the government headed by the dictator Francisco Franco, who considered Cabrera one of his enemies due to his involvement with the Second Republic, expelled him from his chair and pressured him internationally so that Cabrera did not hold any position. He died in Republican exile in Mexico at the end of World War II. A history lesson to combat the myth At the beginning of this year, the professor of the University of Granada Jose Ramon Jimenez Cuesta gave the lecture “The myth of the Spanish scientific backwardness during the Scientific Revolution” at the Centro Artístico Literario y Científico de Granada. A work that can be consulted online and serves to demystify the current of opinion that maintains that, coinciding with the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, there was a delay in Spain that conditioned its scientific development until today. Spain was up to date with the most relevant scientific knowledge in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and there were people who made decisive contributions that, unfortunately, have gone unnoticed or have been intentionally forgotten”, defends this professor as a starting point for his presentation.
Among the fields cultivated in that Spanish Golden Age, Jimenez Cuesta vindicates the scientific value of the Casa de la Contratación de Sevilla, founded to train professionals in astronomy, cosmography, design of navigation instruments, and other knowledge necessary to keep the journey open. between America and Spain. In the words of this professor, this institution of knowledge “became over time a kind of Cape Canaveral of Astronomy and the Art of Navigating and an receptive center to all ideas and knowledge that came from all over the world.”With time, the scientific hegemony of France (Catholic country) or England (Anglican) has more to do with economic than religious issues
Another myth that this professor tries to dismantle in his work is the idea that Spain did not enter the Scientific Revolution due to its status as a Catholic country. This is a baseless topic.
All we can say is that there is a temporal correlation between the Scientific Revolution and the Protestant Reformation. The reform is considered to begin in 1517, practically the same date that Copernicus publishes the “Commentary”. There were great Catholic scientists, Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, and great Protestant or Anglican scientists like Kepler and Newton. There were Catholic scientists in Protestant courts and vice versa. With time, the scientific hegemony of France (Catholic country) or England (Anglican) has more to do with economic than religious issues.