Ramón y Cajal and the Will

La Voz de Galicia – October 27, 2017 →

Cristina PatoIt was published in Spanish more than a one hundred years ago, in English eighteen years ago, and it seems that its Galician translations are among the short-term projects of the Clásicos do Pensamento Universal (Classics of Universal Thought) at the University of Santiago de Compostela, an initiative of the BBVA Foundation and the University that publishes great universal thinkers such as John Dewey, Montaigne, Newton or Erasmus in Galician. Ramón y Cajal’s The Tonic of the Will: Rules and Advice on Scientific Research is a text that continues to be a point of reference in the world of research (even though its thoughts about women in science left much, much to be desired.) Coming about as a result of the author’s lecture at the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, the book provides much advice for new researchers as well as a good snapshot of the state of science in Spain towards the end of the nineteenth century (no, things have not changed much).

In a way, it is also a book about motivation. Ramón y Cajal speaks about the notion that in order to forge ahead in the world of research, one requires “mental independence, intellectual curiosity, and perseverance in the work.” He affirms that “work substitutes talent, or better phrased, creates talent” and suggests remedies for the backwardness of Spanish scientific studies in 1899 based on this thinking.

The idea that determination is what creates talent is a beautiful lesson for problems in the field of education as well as in society in general. Considering talent as something innate helps no one, but impedes the evolution and development of those who believe talent cannot be acquired. According to Cajal “all works of art are the result of patience and perseverance”: a beautiful life lesson.

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