sábado, 6 de diciembre de 2008


I know, I know, I should not post about our successes at sports, but it has really been a very good year for SPAIN, so, please forgive me for doing so.

- Tour de France 2008 Carlos Sastre

- Giro d´Italia 2008 Alberto Contador

- Euro champions (soccer in USA, football everywhere else) 2008

- Vuelta a España 2008 Alberto Contador

- Davis Cup 2008, defeating Argentina in Argentina
- Roland Garros Rafael Nadal
- Wimbledon Rafael Nadal

And so on ......

martes, 10 de junio de 2008

Miguel Servet, burnt by his religious ideas

If you have only read normal “anglosaxon” history, you will think only the catholic spanish inquisition existed, maybe then, you will be very surprised reading this:
MIGUEL SERVET (1511-1553)
This spanish doctor, theologist, mathematician, astronomer and geographer, was born around 1511 in Villanueva de Sijena (Aragon, Spain) and burnt alive to death by calvinists in Geneva (Switzerland) in a dampened wood pyre to add to the suffering of his agony, on the Champel hill, where a small engraving tries, to repair what was done to him.
His father was a notary. He made him learn Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He went to Toulouse, in 1528, to study for a long time. Later, he was appointed as a secretary by Quintana, just apppointed the confesor of Carlos I (of Spain V of Germany) and this social promotion allowed him to travel around Italy and Germany, between 1529 and 1530, before his thirties. In Basel (Switzerland) he published his famous "De erroribus Trinitatis". (1531), becoming the enemy of Zwinglio. He had to leave the city and flee to France, where he became a quest to the Treschsel family, important printers from Lyon. There he quoted and published the Geography of Ptolomeo, in a work of great quality that, according to some scholars, makes him the forefather of compared geography.
In Lyon he met doctor Champier, who introduced him to his science: in order to extend the knowledge in medicine, he went to Paris, where he received the ranks of master in Arts and Medicine doctor. He discovered the lung circulation (he published with his discoveries the famous "Christianismi restitutio", of 1553) and spent eleven years of semi-concealed life in Vienne with the false name of Michael of Villanueva.
Meanwhile, maintained a furious written discussion with Calvin, the great reformer, whose wrath ignited when Servet published thirty of the letters they have sent each other. Calvin accused him of herexy. On 16 February 1553, Servetus, while in Vienne, was denounced as a heretic by Guillaume Trie, a rich merchant who had taken refuge in Geneva and was a very good friend of Calvin, in a letter sent to a cousin, Antoine Arneys, living in Lyon. On behalf of the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory, Servetus as well as Arnollet, the printer of Christianismi Restitutio, were questioned, but they denied all charges and were released for lack of evidence. Arneys was asked by Ory to write back to Trie, demanding proof. On March 26, 1553, the letters sent by Servetus to Calvin and some manuscript pages of Christianismi Restitutio were forwarded to Lyon by Trie. On April 4, 1553 Servetus was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities, and imprisoned in Vienne. He escaped from prison three days later. On June 17, he was convicted of heresy by the French inquisition, "thanks to the 17 letters sent by Jehan Calvin, preacher in Geneva" and sentenced to be burned with his books. An effigy and his books were burned in his absence. Meaning to flee to Italy, Servetus stopped in at Geneva, where Calvin and his Reformers had denounced him. On August 13, he attended a sermon by Calvin at Geneva. He was immediately recognized and arrested after the service and was again imprisoned and had all his property confiscated. Unfortunately for Servetus, at this time Calvin was fighting to maintain his weakening power in Geneva. Calvin's opponents used Servetus as a pretext for attacking the Geneva Reformer's theocratic government, so any mercy would have been taken as a sign of weakness. Also, the French Inquisitors asked that Servetus be extradited to them for execution, and Calvin wanted to show himself as firm in defense of Christian orthodoxy as his usual opponents. "He was forced to push the condemnation of Servetus with all the means at his command." Calvin's delicate health and usefulness to the state meant he did not personally appear against Servetus. Nicholas de la Fontaine played the more active role in Servetus's prosecution and the listing of points that condemned him. At his trial, Servetus was condemned on two counts, for spreading and preaching Nontrinitarianism and anti-paedobaptism (anti-infant baptism). Of paedobaptism Michael Servetus had said, "It is an invention of the devil, an infernal falsity for the destruction of all Christianity" Whatever the cause of them, be it irritation or mistreatment, his statements that common Christian traditions were "of the devil" severely harmed his ability to make allies. In the case the Procureur General, who was not Nicholas, added some curious sounding accusations, in the form of inquiries, the most odd sounding perhaps being, "whether he has married, and if he answers that he has not, he shall be asked why, in consideration of his age, he could refrain so long from marriage." To this oblique imputation of unchastity Servetus replied that rupture had long since made him incapable of that particular sin. More offensive to modern ears might be the question "whether he did not know that his doctrine was pernicious, considering that he favors Jews and Turks, by making excuses for them, and if he has not studied the Koran in order to disprove and controvert the doctrine and religion that the Christian churches hold, together with other profane books, from which people ought to abstain in matters of religion, according to the doctrine of St. Paul." Although Calvin believed Servetus deserving of death on account of his "execrable blasphemies", he nevertheless hoped that it would not be by fire, as he was inclined toward clemency. Calvin expressed these sentiments in a letter to Farel, written about a week after Servetus’ arrest, in which he also mentions an exchange between himself and Servetus. Calvin writes: …after he [Servetus] had been recognized, I thought he should be detained. My friend Nicolas summoned him on a capital charge, offering himself as a security according to the lex talionis. On the following day he adduced against him forty written charges. He at first sought to evade them. Accordingly we were summoned. He impudently reviled me, just as if he regarded me as obnoxious to him. I answered him as he deserved… of the man’s effrontery I will say nothing; but such was his madness that he did not hesitate to say that devils possessed divinity; yea, that many gods were in individual devils, inasmuch as a deity had been substantially communicated to those equally with wood and stone. I hope that sentence of death will at least be passed on him; but I desired that the severity of the punishment be mitigated. As Servetus was not a citizen of Geneva, and legally could at worst be banished, the government had consulted with other Swiss Reformed cantons (Zurich, Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen), which universally favored his condemnation and the suppression of his doctrine, but without saying how that should be accomplished. Martin Luther had condemned his writing in strong terms. Servetus and Philip Melanchthon had strongly hostile views of each other. Most Protestant Reformers saw Servetus as a dangerous radical, and the concept of religious freedom did not really exist yet. The Catholic world had also imprisoned him and condemned him to death, which apparently spurred Calvin to equal their rigor. Those who went against the idea of his execution, the party called "Libertines", drew the ire of much of Christendom. On 24 October Servetus was sentenced to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism. When Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by decapitation rather than fire, Farel, in a letter of September 8, chided him for undue lenity, and the Geneva Council refused his request. On 27 October 1553 Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me." The common view of the age, that heretics like Servetus should be subject to punishment, was explained by Calvin as follows: Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man's authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory. Nevertheless, Sebastian Castellio denounced his execution and became a harsh critic of Calvin due to the whole affair.
Modern relevance
Due to his rejection of the Trinity and eventual execution by burning for heresy, Servetus is often regarded as the first (modern) Unitarian martyr by Unitarians. Other modern non-trinitarian groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses[citation needed], Christadelphians and Oneness Pentecostalism, also claim Servetus as a spiritual ancestor. Servetus' influence on the beginnings of the Unitarian movement in Poland and Transylvania has been confirmed by scholars, and two Unitarian Universalist congregations are named after him, in Minnesota and Washington. A church window is also dedicated to Servetus at the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, NY. Oneness Pentecostalism identifies with Servetus' teaching on the divinity of Jesus Christ and his insistence on the one God, rather than a Trinity of three distinct persons: "And because His Spirit was wholly God He is called God, just as from His flesh He is called man" The theology of Servetus also has many affinities with that of Swedenborg. Servetus was the first European to describe the function of pulmonary circulation, although it was not widely recognized at the time, for a few reasons. One was that the description appeared in a theological treatise, Christianismi Restitutio, not in a book on medicine. Further, most copies of the book were burned shortly after its publication in 1553. Three copies survived, but these remained hidden for decades. It was not until William Harvey's dissections in 1616 that the function of pulmonary circulation was widely accepted by physicians. It is increasingly recognized that the discovery of pulmonary circulation was made 300 years earlier by Ala-al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (known as Ibn Al-Nafis) who was born in 1213 A.D. in Damascus. In 1984, a Zaragoza public hospital changed its name from José Antonio to Miguel Servet. It is now a university hospital. Most Spanish cities also include at least a street, square or park named after Servetus.

lunes, 31 de marzo de 2008

A beautiful chapter in the history of medicine

This is one of the most beautiful chapters in the history of medicine, but of course, as it was done by a Spanish doctor, one mainly unknown, even by spaniards.
Balmis Expedition was a three year mission to the Americas led by Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. He set off from La Coruña on 30 November 1803. It may be considered the first international sanitary expedition in history.
King Charles IV of Spain supported his royal doctor Balmis, since his daughter María Luísa had suffered the illness. The expedition occurred on the Maria Pita ship and carried 22 orphan boys (8 to 10 years old) as successive carriers in "vivo" of the vaccine, Balmis, a deputy surgeon, two assistants, two first-aid practitioners, three nurses, and Isabel López de Gandalia, the rectoress of Casa de Expósitos a La Coruña orphanage.
The course
The mission took the vaccine to the Canary Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, the Philippines and China. The ship carried also scientific instruments and translations of the Historical and Practical Treatise on the Vaccine by Moreau de Sarthe to be distributed to the local vaccine commissions to be founded.
Puerto Rico
The local population was already inoculated with a vaccine carried from the Danish colony Saint Thomas.
The expedition divided at La Guayra.
José Salvany, the deputy surgeon, went toward today's Colombia and the Viceroyalty of Peru (Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia). They took seven years and the toils of the voyage brought death to Salvany (Cochabamba, 1810).
Balmis went to Caracas and later to Havana. The local poet Andrés Bello wrote an ode to Balmis.
Mexico (1805)
In Mexico, Balmis took 25 orphans to maintain the vaccine during the crossing of the Pacific.
They received help from the church. Balmis dismissed back to Mexico the gross of the expedition and went further to China.
Balmis landed on Macau and went also to Canton.
On his way back to Spain, Balmis convinced the authorities of Saint Helena (1806) to take the vaccine.
The discoverer of the vaccine Edward Jenner himself wrote "I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”

(With information from Wikipedia).

If you want to know better the Philippine part, you can read here http://www.doh.gov.ph/sphh/balmis.htm

Further reading about it, http://www.juliaalvarez.com/books/biblio.php

domingo, 10 de febrero de 2008

La Alhambra

As you maybe know, Spain has an incredible rich history, but did you know we were mostly a muslim country for about eight centuries? Sorry, but I will start by the end, this is the moorish palace of the last muslim kings of Granada. Granada was the last moorish kingdom in nowadays Spain and surrendered in 1492. Yes, the same year Colon discovered America. This palace, or group of palaces is known as "La Alhambra". Here you have information from the official visitors center (http://www.alhambra.org/eng/index.asp?secc=/inicio&popup=1)

"The history of the Alhambra is linked with the geographical place where it is located: Granada. On a rocky hill that is difficult to access, on the banks of the River Darro, protected by mountains and surrounded by woods, among the oldest quarters in the city, the Alhambra rises up like an imposing castle with reddish tones in its ramparts that prevent the outside world from seeing the delicate beauty they enclose.
Originally designed as a military area, the Alhambra became the residence of royalty and of the court of Granada in the middle of the thirteenth century, after the establishment of the Nasrid kingdom and the construction of the first palace, by the founder king Mohammed ibn Yusuf ben Nasr, better known as Alhamar.
Throughout the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the fortress became a citadel with high ramparts and defensive towers, which house two main areas: the military area, or Alcazaba, the barracks of the royal guard, and the medina or court city, the location of the famous Nasrid Palaces and the remains of the houses of noblemen and plebeians who lived there. The Charles V Palace (which was built after the city was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492) is also in the medina.
The complex of monuments also has an independent palace opposite the Alhambra, surrounded by orchards and gardens, which was where the Granadine kings relaxed: the Generalife."

miércoles, 30 de enero de 2008

Talgo, the best spanish technology for trains

Maybe you have not heard about it, but if you take some time reading this short introduction and more in Talgo official webpage , http://www.talgo.com/htm/English/English.htm you will be surprised by the achievements of spanish engineering,

"On August the 21st 1941, a Spanish engineer, Alejandro Goicoechea, successfully carried out tests on a singular solution for railway vehicle axle guidance. This was a new wheel structure, constructed from a framework of modules formed by isosceles triangle shapes, the wheels being mounted on the bases and linked together so that the axles were naturally guided along the track, avoiding direct wheel friction on the outer rail of curves. This wheel structure designed by Goicoechea reached 75 kilometres per hour between Leganés and Villaverde (Spain).
Shortly afterwards, on the 28th of October 1942, Talgo Patents S.A. was established. Its objective was industrial and commercial development of this new system, one of the most innovative railway concepts in history.Nearly 60 years have passed since that great initial venture. Six decades during which the rate of innovation has been maintained and enabled Talgo to remain at the forefront of the railway technology producing Spain's most prestigious industrial product.Various decades in which attention to the service of Talgo users has resulted in trains with high levels of availability, reliability and safety."

viernes, 4 de enero de 2008

Spanish flu and conquistadores

Late in the spring of 1918 the Spanish wire service Agencia Fabra sent cables of an unusual nature to Reuter's news service headquarters in London. "A strange form of disease of epidemic character has appeared in Madrid," it said. "The epidemic is of a mild nature, no deaths having been reported." The illness began with a cough, then headache and backache, fatigue, high fever, racing heart, loss of appetite and labored breathing. It usually lasted about three days. Cases had cropped up over the spring and summer in other countries, too, from Norway to India, China to Costa Rica. But in Spain, suddenly 8 million people were down with the bug. And as the summer of 1918 turned to fall, the epidemic lost its mildness: people started to die.
The influenza commonly called "Spanish flu" killed more people than the guns of World War I. Estimates put the worldwide death toll at 21,642,274. Some one billion people were affected by the disease -- half of the total human population. It came at a time when 19 nations were at war and the disruption, stress, and privation of war certainly aided the flu's transmission. It killed people on every continent except Antarctica, with the most lives lost in Asia and the highest percentage of population killed in India. From August 1918, when cases of the flu started looking abnormally high, until the following July when they returned to about normal, 20 million Americans became sick and more than 500,000 died. In October, 1918, the flu reached its peak, killing about 195,000 Americans. About 57,000 American soldiers died from influenza while the U.S. was at war; about 53,500 died in battle.
There wasn't much doctors could do. In the course of the epidemic nearly every known therapy was tried -- quinine tablets, bleeding, castor oil, digitalis, morphine, enemas, aspirin, tobacco, hot baths, cold baths, iron tonics, and expectorants of pine tar. Little was known about the virus, except that it was contagious. After deaths from the disease began in earnest, many local governing bodies closed down theaters, churches, and other public gatherings. Ordinances made it illegal to spit, cough, or sneeze in public -- with threat of $500 fines in New York City. When people went out they wore gauze masks over their nose and mouth, often soaked in camphor or other medicinal substances.
After months of terrorizing people around the world, the "Spanish lady" (called "The Naples Soldier" in Spain, and a variety of other names around the world) seemed to withdraw. It had been the most dire epidemic since the Middle Ages, the third worst in recorded history. For all its destruction, it did not get much press at the time. War and then peace monopolized the front pages. And still little is known about the origin or nature of the killer virus. Many believe the modern "swine flu" virus is a descendant of the deadly 1918 flu. Some theorize that its stronger ancestor ganged up with a bacteria to wreak havoc on the human population. In recent years, vaccinations against various strains of influenza have been introduced.
The disease was first observed at Fort Riley, Kansas on March 4, 1918 and Queens on March 11, 1918. In August, 1918, a more virulent strain appeared simultaneously in Brest, France (you could link this one with the american troops fighting in Europe), in West Africa at Freetown, Sierra Leone and in the U.S. at Boston. The Allies countries of World War I came to call it the Spanish Flu, primarily because the pandemic received greater press attention after it moved from France to Spain in November, 1918. Spain was not involved in the war and had not imposed wartime censorship. As you can see saying the truth is dangerous for a country like Spain with so many historic enemies.
Scientists have used tissue samples from frozen victims to reproduce the virus for study. Given the strain's extreme virulence there has been controversy regarding the wisdom of such research. Among the conclusions of this research is that the virus kills via a cytokine storm, which explains its unusually severe nature and the unusual age profile of its victims (the virus caused an overreaction of the body's immune system - strong immune systems ravaged the body, while weaker ones did far less damage). So, as you have read, this disease had nothing to do with Spain in its origin, it started in the USA, and the only mistake of Spain was it did not use censorship, that Spain told the truth. Besides, would anybody blame the US troops of genocide for bringing this disease to Europe, then why are there people saying Spanish conquistadores were genocides when it is proved that most of the indians who died after the Spanish arrival in the new world were because of illnesses that did not exist in America?