Biography of José de Letamendi y Manjarres (1828-1897)

Doctor and Spanish polygraph born in Barcelona in 1828 and died in Madrid on July 6, 1897.

He was second son of vasco-riojano marriage formed by don José Letamendi and Bores, Commissioner of war, and Doña Mariana Manjarrés and Valdés, illustrious family. The premature death of his father caused him many economic hardships during his childhood and only thanks to your income at the conciliar Seminary could pursue with some comfort elementary studies.

Between 1845 and 1852 he/she studied medicine at the Faculty of Barcelona. Two years after completing them, in 1854, he/she obtained by opposition square first Assistant and permanent substitute for the Chair of Anatomy, which also won by opposition in 1857, year in which earned a doctorate to be vacant by resignation of Dr. José Seco and Baldor. From then on he/she simultanesus anatomy with surgery, which seems that it achieved a remarkable success.

In 1878 he/she won the Chair of general pathology in Madrid, where he/she remained the rest of his life. In 1883 he/she was President of the opponent Court conceded the Chair of Anatomy of Valencia to Cajal. Since then, treated the great Aragonese historian with high esteem and respect, providing even his assistants teach some techniques for making microphotographs that Letamendi thought for some time illustrate his famous course of general pathology (1883-1889). When Cajal moved to Madrid, Letamendi was already very aged; its overflowing and scattered activity had decreased markedly from a disease lithiasic that tortured him until his death, which took place just five years later. In his memoirs, the great historian remembers him with affection, but hide their limitations, especially the "encyclopedic mania": "his attention had scale in all matters, without definitely none. Fed up he/she knew his weakness when reacting against loving reproofs, excused their Rotary hobbies, satirizing donosamente scientific specialists".

It was a real polygraph, which dealt not only with medical issues, but also dedicated many writings to epistemology, philosophy, literature, philology, sociology, economics and music, field cultivated with special dedication, Letamendi in which came to play various instruments and compose more than twelve pieces. Also, had great joy of painting and made a few pictures of anatomical theme with large dimensions, which were exhibited in Paris in 1867. In the Escorial is preserved a 24 square metres fabric due to Letamendi, which was used to illustrate a few lectures given at the Ateneo de Madrid.

Hundreds of articles, several brochures and two books, the general pathology and general La Clínica (1894) make up its medical production, it is necessary to say that his work was, during the 20th century, a strong and bitter controversy. Their panegyrists wanted to see in their work from a continuation of the German "Naturphilosophie", to a precursor of medicine holistic, Constitutionalist, psychosomatic and even social. Many were the antiletamendianos; almost all of them attacked his work from purely positivist positions as: Ramón Turró, who dedicated to him several letters published in the century physician, and Augusto Pi Suñer, who lamented that his verbalism and fantasy had diverted to so many young people from the austerity of the science. The time has allowed that today can be seen with less passion figure and work letamendiana and say that, without good Letamendi was a well endowed guy intellectually and even with a good dose of originality, performed his scientific work isolated from European power, without method and with some exaggerated claims. His fondness and conditions for free speculation and his love of rhetoric led him to formulate a bright and spectacular doctrine, that time showed that it was nothing more than fire of artifice without any basis.



Publications and articles of José de Letamendi and Gabriel: speech on the General elements of science applied to the method of medicine. (Barcelona: Ramírez y Cia., 1866). Discourse on the nature and the origin of man. (Barcelona: Ramírez y Cia., 1867). General pathology course, based on the principle of individual or unit. (Madrid: IMP.) E. slope, 1883-1889). Course of general clinic or perpetual canon of medical practice. 2 vols., (Madrid, 1894). LÓPEZ PIÑERO, J. M. cf. et al.: Bibliographia Medica Hispánica, 1475-1950, volume V: books and brochures. 1851-1900, Valencia, 1996, p. 523-526.


PALAFOX Marquis, Silverio: "Life, portrait and del doctor Letamendi work", in files Ibero-American history of medicine. No. 3, pp. 441-473, (1951).FORNS, Rafael: Letamendi, (Barcelona, 1956).RIVERA, Juan: "Letamendi and Turró: romanticism and positivism in 19th century Catalan medicine". on Asclepius, no. 17, pp. 117-153, (1965).

Francesc Bujosa Homar