While he apprenticed as a cobbler and a barber in childhood, Santiago Ramón y Cajal later took up medicine inspired by his father, a professor of anatomy. Cajal’s study of the microscopic structure of the human brain later formed the basis of neuroscience and earned him a Nobel Prize.
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.
Nobel Prize-winning Spanish biochemist Severo Ochoa is remembered for his discovery of the enzyme polynucleotide phosphorylase and his subsequent success in synthesizing RNA. His research took him to top institutes such as the universities of Oxford and Heidelberg. He had also taught at the New York University.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Initially a math professor, José Echegaray later held several government posts. As the minister of finance, he developed the Banco de España. He later established himself as a prominent dramatist, with plays such as El gran Galeoto, and became the first Spanish to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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.
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.
18 Tomàs Molina
TV3 weather presenter Tomàs Molina is a renowned meteorologist who heads Televisión de Cataluña’s meteorology department and is also associated with the Catalan channels Canal Méteo and Teletiempo. The IABM vice president has authored several books and won the Spain Zapping Award for the Best TV Personality in 2012.
Spanish botanist José Celestino Mutis had initially studied medicine and served as the royal physician of Ferdinand VI. While working in South America later, he studied the medicinal properties of plants. He also built a massive botanical garden and penned a treatise that contained over 6,000 illustrations of plants.
Known for his works on math, philosophy, and astronomy, Catalan Jewish philosopher and scientist Abraham bar Hiyya was one of the first to enrich Hebrew scientific literature. Apart from translating books from Arabic to Latin, he had also penned works such as Liber Embadorum, a treatise on geometry and algebra.
Simeon ben Zemah Duran was the first Spanish Jewish rabbi to earn a regular salary from the community, going against the trend of the rabbi’s post being honorary. He excelled in subjects such as philosophy, math, and medicine, and is best remembered for his commentary Magen Avot.