Famous Spanish Intellectuals & Academics

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 1 Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: October 23, 1491
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Azpeitia, Spain
Died: July 31, 1556

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a  Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."

 2 Averroes

Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 14, 1126
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Córdoba, Spain
Died: December 10, 1198
Born into a family of lawyers and judges in Cordoba, Averroes studied subjects such as medicine, theology, and philosophy during childhood. His works include his commentaries on Aristotle’s ideas. He attempted to explore the link between philosophy and Islam, and is also known for his unity of the intellect theory.

 3 Ibn Arabi

Ibn Arabi
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: July 26, 1165
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Murcia, Spain
Died: November 16, 1240
Ibn Arabi, also known as al-Qushayri and Sultan al-ʿArifin, was a 13th-century Muslim scholar and poet. He is remembered for his cosmological teachings and is known among Sufis as al-Shaykh al-Akbar, which gave rise to the Akbariyya school of Sufi metaphysics. His works include The Meccan Illuminations and The Dīwān.
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 4 Bartolomé de las Casas

Bartolomé de las Casas
Famous As: Historian, Priest
Birthdate: November 11, 1474
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Seville, Spain
Died: July 18, 1566
Known for works such as Historia de las Indias, Spanish historian Bartolomé de las Casas is remembered as the first to have focused on the exploitation of the indigenous community in the Americas. His life-long struggle to end slavery brought about significant changes in the treatment of colonized people.
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 5 George Santayana

George Santayana
Famous As: Philosopher, Essayist, Poet
Birthdate: December 16, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Died: September 26, 1952

One of George Santayana’s initial works, The Sense of Beauty, spoke about aesthetics, an oft-repeated topic in his later works. The Spanish-born American philosopher and Harvard professor is remembered for his quote “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” which has often been misattributed to Plato.

 6 Miguel de Unamuno

Miguel de Unamuno
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 29, 1864
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bilbao
Died: December 31, 1936

Miguel de Unamuno was a Spanish essayist, poet, playwright, novelist, and philosopher. His most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion, a modern retelling of the Biblical Cain and Abel story. He was a significant figure in the Spanish literary and intellectual circles and served as rector of the University of Salamanca. 

 7 José Ortega y Gasset

José Ortega y Gasset
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: May 9, 1883
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Died: October 18, 1955

Philosopher and humanist José Ortega y Gasset was a major figure of the 20th-century Spanish literary renaissance. Apart from introducing concepts such as ratiovitalism, he also believed in the philosophy "I am I and my circumstance." Invertebrate Spain and The Revolt of the Masses remain his best works.

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 8 Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: September 29, 1509
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Villanueva de Sigena, Spain
Died: October 27, 1553

Michael Servetus was a Spanish physician, Renaissance humanist, cartographer, and theologian. In 1553, he published a book titled Christianismi Restitutio in which he described the function of pulmonary circulation, becoming the first European to describe it accurately. A polymath, Michael Servetus was well-versed in many fields, such as mathematics, geography, meteorology, astronomy, human anatomy, pharmacology, medicine, poetry, jurisprudence, and translation.

 9 Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: March 28, 1515
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gotarrendura
Died: October 4, 1582

Teresa of Ávila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who later turned into a Carmelite nun. She was posthumously named a Doctor of the Church. She co-established the Discalced Carmelite Order. Her written works include The Interior Castle and her own autobiography.

 10 Leo Africanus

Leo Africanus
Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: 1494 AD
Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Died: 1554 AD

Spanish Islamic scholar Leo Africanus is best remembered for his Description of Africa, which served as a relevant treatise on the geography of Africa. Educated in Morocco, he had traveled through places such as Aswan and Timbuktu. He was later captured and converted to Christianity as Giovanni Leone.

 11 Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull
Famous As: philosopher, theologian, astrologer, cleric
Birthdate: 1232 AD
Birthplace: Palma de Mallorca
Died: 1316 AD

Ramon Llull was a mathematician, polymath, writer, philosopher, logician, and mystic from the Kingdom of Majorca. He served as a tutor to King James II of Aragon and was later made seneschal to the future King James II of Majorca. He was a prolific writer, with more than 250 works in Catalan, Latin, and Arabic to his name. 

 12 Ibn Hazm

Ibn Hazm
Famous As: muhaddith, writer, philosopher
Birthdate: November 7, 0994
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Córdoba
Died: August 15, 1064

One of the main figures of the Ẓāhirī school of jurisprudence, Ibn Hazm had penned masterpieces such as The Ring of the Dove. The Spanish Muslim polymath was from an influential family and grew up to write on varied topics, such as history, religion, medicine, and ethics.

 13 Manuel Castells

Manuel Castells
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: February 9, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hellín

Spanish sociologist and professor Manuel Castells has taught at prestigious universities such as the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the University of California, Berkeley. Educated at the Sorbonne, he specialized in law and economics and later deviated to sociology and communication studies. He now serves as the Spanish minister of universities.

 14 Solomon ibn Gabirol

Solomon ibn Gabirol
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1021 AD
Birthplace: Málaga, Spain
Died: 1070 AD

A prominent figure of the Hebrew school of poetry and a Neoplatonic philosopher, Solomon ibn Gabirol lived during the Jewish Golden Age of Spain. His works include elegies, religious and secular poems, proverbs, and philosophical treatises. Legends claim that he was either murdered by another poet or by a horseman.

 15 Bernal Díaz del Castillo

Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Famous As: Soldier
Birthdate: 1496 AD
Birthplace: Medina del Campo, Spain
Died: January 11, 1584

Military adventurer, conquistador, and colonist settler Bernal Díaz del Castillo is best known for his participation in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire under Hernán Cortés and for his memoirs, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain.  He was part of three Mexican expeditions, that of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Juan de Grijalva and Cortés respectively.

 16 Oleguer Presas

Oleguer Presas
Famous As: Association football player, Economist
Birthdate: February 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sabadell

Footballer Oleguer Presas was 23 when he played his first match with Barcelona and later went on to win two La Liga championships and one Champions League with them. An economics major, he was dragged into a controversy after he supported the Catalan nationalist movement and criticized the Spanish judiciary.

 17 Baltasar Gracian

Baltasar Gracian
Famous As: Prose writer
Birthdate: January 8, 1601
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Belmonte de Gracián, Spain
Died: December 6, 1658

Spanish baroque author and philosopher Baltasar Gracian was a leading proponent of the conceptismo style. Inspired by his priest uncle, he took Jesuit vows. His notable works include Subtlety and the Art of Genius and the three-part novel The Critick, with the latter written under a pseudonym.

 18 Louis Blanc

Louis Blanc
Famous As: Journalist, Politician, Historian, Writer
Birthdate: October 29, 1811
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Madrid
Died: December 6, 1882

French socialist and politician Louis Blanc is best remembered for supporting the formation of "social workshops" led by workers. He initially studied law, before he started writing for journals and then eventually launched his own newspaper, Revue du progress, which published his most notable work L’Organisation du travail.

 19 Abraham ibn Ezra

Abraham ibn Ezra
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1089 AD
Birthplace: Tudela, Spain
Died: January 23, 1167
A significant figure of the Golden Age of Spanish Judaism, Abraham ibn Ezra was a renowned poet, a Neoplatonic philosopher, a biblical commentator, and an astronomy enthusiast. He traveled throughout Europe, North Africa, and Egypt, and also translated the works of Hispano-Hebrew grammarians. He inspired Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra.

 20 Ibn Tufail

Ibn Tufail
Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: 1105 AD
Birthplace: Guadix, Spain
Died: 1185 AD

Ibn Tufail was a 12th-century Arab polymath from Andalusia and a significant figure of the Islamic Golden Age. Best known for his philosophical romance Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, he had also penned medical works in Arab and had been the court physician of Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf.

 21 Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco de Vitoria
Famous As: philosopher, writer, religious, university teacher, economist
Birthdate: 1483 AD
Birthplace: Burgos
Died: August 12, 1546

Francisco de Vitoria was a Spanish Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher, and jurist of Renaissance Spain. He founded the School of Salamanca, a tradition in philosophy. He made tremendous contributions to the theory of just war and international law. His works have been interpreted by various scholars to support contrary policies. He taught at the universities of Valladolid and of Salamanca. 

 22 Judah Halevi

Judah Halevi
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: 1075 AD
Birthplace: Toledo, Spain
Died: 1141 AD

Spanish Jewish poet, physician, and philosopher Judah Halevi is remembered for his significant contributions to the development of Hebrew poetry. Best known for Sefer ha-Kuzari and his poems in Dīwān, he was greatly influenced by Arabian literature. His travels eventually took him to Egypt, where he died.

 23 Francisco Suárez

Francisco Suárez
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 5, 1548
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Died: September 25, 1617

Spanish Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian Francisco Suárez was born to an affluent lawyer and had initially studied law. However, he joined the Jesuits later, following which he taught philosophy and theology. Known for writing Disputationes Metaphysicae, he was a prime figure of the School of Salamanca movement.

 24 Paul B. Preciado

Paul B. Preciado
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Born a woman, Paul B. Preciado initially identified himself as a lesbian and later announced his slow transition to being a man. A celebrated author and philosopher, he has penned books such as Testo Junkie, written columns on gender and sexuality, and taught subjects such as gender theory.

 25 Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda was a Spanish Renaissance humanist, philosopher, and theologian. Born into a family of Old Christians with humble origins, he went on to pursue studies in theology and canon law at the Universidad de Alcalá. He also obtained a doctorate in arts and theology from the Collegio de San Clemente in Bologna. 

 26 Miguel Boyer

Miguel Boyer
Famous As: Minister of Economy, Treasury and Commerce (1 December 1982 – 6 July 1985)
Birthdate: February 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Jean de Luz, France
Died: September 29, 2014

 27 Ibn Jubayr

Ibn Jubayr
Famous As: Geographer
Birthdate: September 1, 1145
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Valencia, Spain
Died: November 29, 1217

Ibn Jubayr was an Arab geographer, traveler, and poet from al-Andalus. In the years preceding the Third Crusade, he made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca from 1183 to 1185, which he wrote about in great detail in his chronicles. He was a member of an Arab family of the Kinanah tribe and also traveled to  Damascus, Mosul, Acre, and Baghdad. 

 28 Nadia Calviño

Nadia Calviño
Famous As: Economist, Politician
Birthdate: October 3, 1968
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: A Coruña, Spain

 29 Francisco J. Ayala

Francisco J. Ayala
Famous As: Biologist, Geneticist, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: March 12, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Madrid

Francisco J. Ayala is a Spanish-born American evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist, best known for his investigation on the process of genetic variation and natural selection at molecular level. He also undertook research on public health, providing new ideas on the prevention and treatment of diseases and expounded how Darwin’s theory of evolution is well-matched to religious theory of creation.  

 30 Juan Luis Vives

Juan Luis Vives
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Juan Luis Vives was a Spanish (Valencian) scholar and Renaissance humanist. He had a very difficult childhood and witnessed several members of his family being executed as Judaizers. He studied at the University of Paris and became a professor of humanities at the University of Leuven. He placed emphasis on memory and is acknowledged for integrating psychology and medicine. 

 31 Marcelino de Sautuola

Marcelino de Sautuola
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: June 2, 1831
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Santander, Cantabria Santander, Spain
Died: March 30, 1888

Spanish jurist and amateur archaeologist Marcelino de Sautuola was the owner of the land where the Altamira cave was found. Led by his eight-year-old daughter María, Sautuola discovered drawings of the cave that are earliest known examples of Stone Age painting. Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanova y Piera excavated the cave that was later declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

 32 Antonio de Nebrija

Antonio de Nebrija
Famous As: linguist, translator, writer, philologist
Birthdate: 1441 AD
Birthplace: Lebrija
Died: July 5, 1522

Spanish linguist, poet and humanist Antonio de Nebrija, considered the most influential Spanish humanist of his time, is noted for making significant contributions in the fields of grammar and lexicography. He is best known for authoring Gramática de la lengua castellana (Grammar of the Castilian Language), the first work that focused on the Spanish language and its rules.

 33 Antonio de Ulloa

Antonio de Ulloa
Famous As: Astronomer, Explorer, Meteorologist
Birthdate: January 12, 1716
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seville
Died: July 3, 1795

Spanish mariner Antonio de Ulloa was sent by the government to explore America and ended up being captured by the British while returning. His scientific zeal made him a Fellow of the Royal Society there. He is remembered for his metallurgical, astronomical, and geographical discoveries and treatises.

 34 Luis Ladaria Ferrer

Luis Ladaria Ferrer
Famous As: Cardinal, Theologian
Birthdate: April 19, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manacor, Spain

 35 Samuel ibn Naghrillah

Samuel ibn Naghrillah
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: 0993 AD
Birthplace: Córdoba, Spain
Died: 1056 AD

Considered the most politically influential Jew in Muslim Spain, Samuel ibn Naghrillah was also an eminent Talmudic scholar, poet, grammarian, philologist and soldier. Beginning his life as a merchant in Córdoba, he later moved to Granada, where his linguistic and calligraphic skills caught the attention of the vizier; he was appointed first as assistant vizier and on latter on as the vizier.

 36 Antonio Cánovas del Castillo

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo
Famous As: Prime minister of Spain
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Málaga, Spain
Died: August 8, 1897

While he initially studied law, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo showed a marked interest in history and politics, too. The six-time prime minister of Spain led the Conservative Party. As a historian, he had penned works such as History of the Decline of Spain. He was assassinated by an Italian anarchist.

 37 Salvador de Madariaga

Salvador de Madariaga
Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: July 23, 1886
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: A Coruña, Spain
Died: December 14, 1978

Spanish diplomat, writer, historian, and pacifist Salvador de Madariaga is best-remembered for his service at the League of Nations and for his books and essays. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature, and received the Karlspreis. One of his novels, The Heart of Jade is widely regarded as a remarkable work of modern Spanish-language literature.

 38 Raimon Panikkar

Raimon Panikkar
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: November 2, 1918
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Died: August 26, 2010

Born to a Spanish Catholic mother and an Indian Hindu father in Barcelona, Raimon Panikkar grew up to be a Catholic priest and a philosophy professor. An expert in comparative religion, he compared the tenets of Catholicism and Hinduism in his doctoral thesis. He also penned several spiritual texts.

 39 Avempace

Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: 1085 AD
Birthplace: Zaragoza, Spain
Died: 1138 AD

Spanish Arab philosopher and scholar Avempace excelled in a variety of subjects, such as astronomy, music, medicine, and poetry. His treatise on botany Kitāb an-Nabāt described how plant sexes differ. His other works include Tadbīr al-mutawaḥḥid. He was believed to be an atheist by many.

 40 Pablo Pineda

Pablo Pineda
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Málaga, Spain

 41 Juan Donoso Cortés

Juan Donoso Cortés
Famous As: Politician, Writer
Birthdate: May 6, 1809
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Valle de la Serena, Spain
Died: May 3, 1853

 42 Luis de Molina

Luis de Molina
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: September 29, 1535
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cuenca, Spain
Died: October 12, 1600

 43 María Zambrano

María Zambrano
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: April 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vélez-Málaga, Spain
Died: February 6, 1991

 44 Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, 21st Duchess of Medina Sidonia

Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, 21st Duchess of Medina Sidonia
Famous As: Duchess, Historian
Birthdate: August 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villa Guzmán el Bueno, Estoril, Portugal
Died: March 7, 2008

 45 Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos
Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: January 5, 1744
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gijón, Spain
Died: November 27, 1811

An important figure of  the Spanish Enlightenment, statesman author Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos began his career as a criminal judge before returning to his native province, where he completed his best known work, arguing for agricultural reforms. As Minister of Justice he argued against Inquisition and as an important member of the Supreme Central Junta, actively opposed the French invasion.

 46 Ignacio Martín-Baró

Ignacio Martín-Baró
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: November 7, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Valladolid, Spain
Died: November 16, 1989

 47 Diego Duran

Diego Duran
Famous As: Historian, Writer, Dominican friar, Missionary
Birthdate: June 15, 1537
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Seville
Died: 1588 AD

 48 Ignacio Ellacuría

Ignacio Ellacuría
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: November 9, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Portugalete, Spain
Died: November 16, 1989

Spanish-Salvadoran Jesuit priest and human rights activist Ignacio Ellacuría contributed massively to the development of Latin America’s liberation theology. While teaching at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, he also faced severe army backlash for his political activism. He was eventually assassinated by an elite army unit.

 49 Abraham ben David Halevi ibn Daud

Abraham ben David Halevi ibn Daud
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: 1110 AD
Birthplace: Córdoba, Spain
Died: 1180 AD

Best known for his treatises Sefer ha-kabbala and Sefer ha-emuna ha-rama, Abraham ben David Halevi ibn Daud was a 12th-century Spanish-Jewish philosopher, historian, and physician. Also known as Rabad I, or Ravad I, he was the first real Aristotelian Jew. Some historians believe he died a martyr.

 50 José de Acosta

José de Acosta
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: September 30, 1540
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Medina del Campo, Spain
Died: February 15, 1600

Spanish Jesuit missionary José de Acosta had penned the earliest available treatise on the New World, Natural and Moral History of the Indies. While on his mission in Peru, he wrote the first printed book of the country. The altitude sickness he experienced is now named Acosta's disease.