European Science Writers Award, 14. Juli 2008
Herr Doctor Wilhelm Krull, Euroscience Foundation Representatives, ladies, gentlemen
To receive such a prestigious prize is to reach a crown for a live bound to retirement. In giving thanks for the European Science Writers Award you so generously have decided in favour of me, I would like to express in few words the deep meaning of such honour coming from Europe heart for an Spaniard.
There was in Spain in the first third of the twenty century a strong cultural movement that is called "The Argent Age", remembering the "Golden Age" of our seventeenth century rich in painters and drama writers. The former is distinguished by a tremendous effort in science, and, at the first step, in promoting public understanding of science. Behind that was the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios and its motto the words of José Ortega y Gasset: the regeneration and the future of our country was in European science. When he says Europe, he means Germany.
The Iter Germanicus was the road for our scientists and philosophers then. Everybody knows the names of José Pascual, Juan Negrín and Severo Ochoa, among scientists, Ortega, Xavier Zubiri and Manuel García Morente, among philosophers. Why Germany? Why German science? Certainly, by the end of the nineteenth century it was German that had overtaken French to become the dominant language for serious scientific research. Not only that. In the aftermath of the First World War, and established the Weimar Republic, German scientists take the torch in a deeply depressed society. The future of the country, the pride of the country, was, Max Planck declares, in the hands of their science men.
In this context of energetic confidence in their own forces, an outstanding institution was born: Notgemeinschaft für die deutsche Wissenschaft (later renamed in Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). This kind of answer has been, by the way, a historical constant, that corroborates what a classic Roman said two thousand years ago: Germania multoties victa, nunquam tamen dominata" (Germany several times beaten, never conquered, however)
This was the Europe dreamt by Ortega and the rest of so called "Escuela de Madrid". And they put hands on. And they initiate the first serious effort in promoting science in Spain. How? Translating German essays on science into Spanish. This is the way relativity, quantum mechanics, physiology, genetics, ethology became familiar to Spanish scientists and laymen. Even a German scientific magazine appeared translated into Spanish (being Antonio de Zulueta, a geneticist, the chief editor) .
Several decades later, in nineteenth seventy six, the Planck spirit was still alive among us. Spain was going to join Europe in democracy. The engine to drive the process, some of us thought, must be the science. Investigación y Ciencia was born. A science for all the seasons and for all the people. As Americans say we make the future happens. Looking back, I cannot forget the high number of people who jouined us in the adventure. In fact, Investigación y Ciencia pages, let me say, are pages of the history of Spanish science, starting with Ramón Margalef, Pedro Pascual, Manuel Ballester, to mention three egregious characters untimely late, who put the bases of biology, physics and chemistry in Barcelona.
Their memory deserves the credit.
Thank you very much
José María Valderas