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."
Son of Spanish immigrants, Jose Marti spent his childhood in a strife-torn Cuba and attended high school on financial aid. Marti’s poems, essays, and articles were laced with his patriotic vigor to free Cuba from the Spanish rule. He died battling on the field at Dos Ríos.
Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi created over 70 maps. Born in Ceuta, he spent much of his early life traveling around regions of North Africa, Western Europe, and Asia Minor. Advisor to Sicilian king Roger II, he created the Tabula Rogeriana, one of the most detailed maps of the world.
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.
Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville is widely remembered as the last of the Western Latin Fathers. His Etymologies was a chief reference book for years. The 7th-century archbishop of Sevilla wrote about varied subjects, such as religion, science, history, and linguistics. He had a major role in the Councils of Toledo.
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.
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.
Josemaría Escrivá was a Spanish priest best remembered for founding an organization called Opus Dei. He is also remembered for authoring a book titled The Way. The book has been translated into many languages and has sold millions of copies around the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A pioneer of modern anthropology and a renowned ethnographer, 16th-century Spanish priest and missionary Bernardino de Sahagún remains one of the greatest resources of the history of ancient Mexico. Best remembered for compiling Historia General and its manuscript the Florentine Codex, he developed the Aztec language Nahuatl.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roman author and geographer Pomponius Mela is best known for penning De situ orbis, later known as De chorographia, which is the earliest known geography treatise in Latin. His work described the Earth to be divided into five zones and four seas, the most important being the Mediterranean.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arab geographer Al-Bakri served as the governor of multiple provinces in southwest Spain, where he became a famous scholar. His best-known work, Kitab al-masalik wa-’l-mamalik, described the trade routes of Africa, especially Ghana, and were based on the accounts of navigators and merchants who had been there.
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.
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.
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.
Juan Donoso Cortés was a Spanish author, politician, diplomat, and Catholic political theologian. He is credited with influencing many intellects, including Carl Schmitt, Juan Vázquez de Mella y Fanjul, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, and Miguel Antonio Caro Tobar. Considered a counter-revolutionary author, Juan Donoso Cortés' works have been translated into English.
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.
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.
María Zambrano was a Spanish philosopher and essayist. She was part of the Generation of '36, a group of writers and artists who were active during the Spanish Civil War. María Zambrano's work achieved popularity in the late-20th century and she was honored with several prestigious awards such as the Miguel de Cervantes Prize and the Prince of Asturias Award.