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March 16, 1990

Recollections of My Life

Author Affiliations

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Nashville, Tenn

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Nashville, Tenn

JAMA. 1990;263(11):1570. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440110148044

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Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was one of the founders of modern neuroscience. His autobiography, written over many years and translated into English in 1937, is now reissued by the MIT Press as a paperback. Thomas Henry Huxley said that autobiography is a special branch of fiction, and Cajal's recollections of his childhood certainly strain credulity. But when he recounts his career in science, the reader is entranced by his fairness and his romantic language.

Cajal attributed his initial success to perseverance ("the virtue of the less brilliant") in the dreary technical details of the Golgi method of staining nervous tissue. He felt that international recognition of his startling histological studies was delayed because he published in the Spanish language. At the turn of the century, said Cajal, any person who wanted an international audience had to publish in English, French, or German. "Educated people of other countries have no