Royal Academy of Medicine of Spain, Madrid, Spain

The Royal National Academy of Medicine is an official Spanish scientific institution, founded in 1861. The Academy awards prizes of various kinds through public competitions and contests and has published important works such as the official Pharmacopoeia, the Classical Library of Spanish Medicine and some interesting Annals.

The Royal Academy of Medicine began its history in the first third of the eighteenth century in the midst of a gathering in the pharmacy of José Hortega, under Enlightenment movement. In July 1733 became a grouping of professionals, initially titled “Tertulia Médico-Chymica-Phisica” and later “Tertulia Médica Matritense”.

It uses as emblem a shield that represents the allegory of Archimedes, which states that by using many small mirrors arranged in a dish and using the sun’s rays, got fire to the Roman fleet.

The academic medals bear a midwife allegory symbolizing medicine and the legend “Ars cum natura ad salutem conspirans”.

The Royal National Academy of Medicine of Spain was founded on April 28, 1861. Its precedent was the Royal Medical Academy Matritense ( 1734 ), emerged in the mid-eighteenth century as a gathering of doctors, surgeons and apothecaries, and which is reorganized by Royal Decree of April 28, 1861, “to promote the progress of Spanish medicine, publish its bibliographic history, form the medical geography of the country and a technological dictionary of Medicine ». The Royal Decree of August 8, 1830, which established regulations for medical academies, generalized it to the other provinces of Castilla la Nueva, the current Castilla-La Mancha, with the name ofAcademy of Medicine and Surgery of Castilla la Nueva.

By the middle of the 18th century, Spain had seen the emergence of numerous forums focused on various cultural and scientific topics of the day. It was out of such a context that a group of doctors, surgeons and pharmacists would take part in early evening intellectual gatherings at the home of D. José Ortega at 9 Montera Street. Informal conversation touched upon the advancement and nurturing of medical, surgical and pharmaceutical colleges in Madrid. This undertaking, fanned by some obvious desire to breathe new life into the medical field in and around the Spanish capital, would eventually blossom on 12 july 1733 into the Madrilenian Society of Medical Literature (Tertulia Literaria Médica Matritense).

This was only the modest beginning of a larger endeavour which was to be made one year later. On 12 August 1734, the Society’s original statutes were modified and it became the Madrilenian Academy of Medicine (Academia Médica Matritense). A royal decree would mark the organization’s approval by King Philip V one month later. The new institution would thrive under the auspices of the royal family, whose support for the academy would be undying. Conditions were set for a larger membership and widening of its range of disciplines, which were now to include Natural History, Chemistry, Physics and Botany. The naming of Dr. José Cervi, at that time the most eminent physician in service to the royal family, as the academy’s director highlighted a desire by the House of Bourbon to have a firm hand in academic life.

The Early Years
The project had thus become reality as a new age in scientific activity had come to dawn in Madrid. Its statutes would be successively modified over the years; unfortunately, such modifications are only partly known, as archives from the period 1752-1791 were lost. And this period is especially interesting as it is marked by the deaths of Cervi and Ortega, as well as by the incorporation of the work of the eminent Valencian physician, Andrés Piquer. It was also during these years that the Academy contributed to both the creation of the Botanical Garden and the mammoth undertaking of the publication of Joseph Quer’s Flora Española.

Archives detailing current activities of the Academy once again become available for the years beginning in 1792. New statutes grounded in its constitution were sanctioned in May, 1796, and a plan was established for true incorporation into the realm of modern European scientific thought. The plan also called for a systematic calendar of activities touching upon topics ranging from medical topographies to descriptions of endemic and epidemic diseases. Treatment of such topics was pedagogically sound and mindful of such issues as bibliography, forensic medicine, hospital management, medical politics, plagiarism and regulation of medications and therapies.

The Medical Academy thus became an instrument with which the Bourbons could arduously attend to the general public but without having to deal directly with it. An impressive list of academics, among them Gimbernat, Mutis, Casal, Virgili, Virrey y Mange, Lacaba and Hipólito Ruiz would embark on the enormous task of preparing a wealth of dissertations and medical reports which were published in 1797.

The next century would be as turbulent for the Academy as it was for the nation in general. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars had a deleterious effect on the scientific infrastructure which had been so carefully fashioned. That which had long been considered culturally conducive suddenly became threatening. Accordingly, the academy attempted to maintain the lowest possible profile with regard to academic activity, protocol and fiscal matters.
All would be to no avail, however, as in November, 1824, the Supreme Governmental Medical Commission ordered closure of the Academy, which would last for the next four years. In 1831, the administration of Castelló would manage to approve a general set of guidelines for all literary works within the Royal Academies of Surgery and Medicine, organizations firmly under the control of the Commission, and install its own university – until then a marginalized institution within the academic world. Such control would be iron clad until the death of Fernando VII. The period which followed (known as the era of isabelina) began to see the rebirth of academic activity, along with an eventual sanctioning of new rules in governance of a Madrilenian Royal Academy of Medicine, a landmark in its history as it went on to officially become the National Royal Academy of Medicine.

This new regime would replace years of intellectual isolation, repression and control with a veritable and unbounded code of academic freedom which would flourish until the present, except for the tragic period of the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Until the start of the war, the Academy of Medicine had enjoyed a “golden half century in the healing arts”. It had been during this time that numerous physicians gained prestige in their specialties. The subsequent animosity and repression which was tragically borne by the nation eventually subsided into yet another fruitful era of slow but steady restoration of academic values and successive statutory reform. Such would blossom into the select group of physicians, surgeons, pharmacists, veterinarians, biologists, physicists and engineers which now silently yet efficiently go about the business of safeguarding the nation’s health and health care system.

Seats of the Royal Academy
Our medicine’s history can be told as many forms. One of these can be following the path of the 50 seats of the Royal National Academy of Medicine, dedicated to different specialties. From pharmacology to rehabilitation, from gynecology to cardiology, or from psychiatry to neurology, and so on to half hundred disciplines symbolized in each one of the academic seats. The recent edition of the DVD “Historia de los Sillones de la RANM” represents a thrilling travel through the life and work of many of the biggest names of the Spanish medical science.

Its headquarters are located at 12 Arrieta street, in Madrid ( Spain ).

Emblem and medals
Use as emblem a shield that represents the discovery of Archimedes, which is said to be that by using numerous small mirrors, arranged in parabolic form and using the sun’s rays, he managed to burn the Roman fleet.

The academic medals show an allegory of a midwife symbolizing Medicine and the legend: Ars cum natura ad salutem conspirans (Art collaborating with nature for health).

Today, the Royal Academy of Medicine held public Scientific Sessions every Tuesday working the course, in which two scholars sets scientific issues, Takeover Sessions, Opening and Closing of the Course, Special Sessions, etc.

Regarding publications, the journal published quarterly RANM Annals, which includes the lectures delivered at Scientific Sessions, News bulletin, activity Newsletter and monographs, etc…

The tasks and current projects of the Royal Academy include: the Dictionary of Medical Terms, the announcement and awarding of Prizes, computerization of its bibliographic, etc…

It consists of fifty numerary academics, honorary academics, several corresponding in Madrid, provinces and abroad, and also other foreign fees. Since 2012 it is chaired by Joaquín Poch Broto.


The Facade
The building that houses the Royal National Academy of Medicine dates back to 1914. Its architecture is typical of the eclectic style that emerged in Spain in the mid-19th century. The work was carried out by Luis María Cabello Lapiedra, a key figure in the architecture of Madrid. The dates beside the name refer, on the left, to the start of the medical discussion group (1733) and, on the right, to the date when the building works were scheduled to be completed (1913).

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Two Atlases stand guard at the front entrance, holding up the balcony of the floor above.

On the upper section of the building is a sculptural group consisting of the Spanish coat of arms and two female allegorical figures symbolizing medicine and science.

The First Floor
Once through the doorway, we find ourselves in a hallway lined with different shades of marble. Ahead lies the entrance to the Courtyard of Honor (Patio de Honor), and immediately in front of that is a gallery layout.

Before reaching the stairs at the back of the hallway, there are two rooms: the Yellow Room (Salón Amarillo) on the right, and the Blue Room (Salón Azul) to the left. The stairs lead to the second floor, where the library is located.

In the Courtyard of Honor, there is a remarkable stained glass window made by the French manufacturer Mauméjean, and an impressive glass lampshade hanging over the center of the courtyard.

The door at the back leads to the Function Room (Salón de Actos).

The Courtyard of Honor on the day that the building was inaugurated on March 5, 1914. At that time, the floor was made of glass blocks, allowing light to filter through to the basement.

Immortalized here is the architect Luis Cabello, with his representatives, on the day of the inauguration.

The Function Room
This room is the heart of the Academy’s activities. It is used, among other things, for scientific sessions, where the most prestigious doctors and scientists present their progress in various subjects. Acoustics and visibility were the main concerns of the architect, who worked hard to create the ideal conditions. The rows of chairs facing each other on the right and left are those used by the Academy’s full members. The rest of the audience is separated by a gate, which would traditionally be closed at the start of each session.

The room is designed over two levels and can hold around 200 people. On the upper level are medallion portraits of the most famous scientists from every period.

Among the paintings overlooking the Function Room is a portrait of King Philip V, painted by Ramón Pulido.

The Function Room in 1916, during the formal reception ceremony when Professor Manuel Márquez Rodríguez was accepted as a full member of the Royal National Academy of Medicine, under the presidency of His Majesty King Alfonso XIII. At the presidential table, seated to his left were professors Cortezo (President of the Corporation) and Pulido, and to his right, professors Amalio Gimeno and Cortejarena.

Table from the formal inaugural session of the Royal National Academy of Medicine in 1915. Chaired by His Excellency Professor Carlos María Cortezo and the Minister for Public Education, Mr Collantes. February 1915.

The presidential arch is crowned with a representation of Athena (goddess of science and the arts), made from plaster or artificial stone with painted gold detail.

The ceiling in the Function Room is decorated with artistic stained glass made by the same manufacturer as the example in the Courtyard of Honor—Mauméjean.

Before entering the Function Room, the Academy’s members would meet and talk in the room known as the Yellow Room.

The Library
Located on the second floor, Cabello Lapiedra was always very clear that this, together with the Function Room, would be one of the building’s most important rooms. It also had to be an emblematic room, to honor and commemorate the creation of the Academy in a library behind the back room of a pharmacy.

It was designed, in conjunction with the facade, to make the most of the light entering through its five large windows, giving the library its grandeur.

The large reading room is highly valued for its natural light. Cabello Lapiedra did not build any bookshelves because of a disagreement over the budget. In the end, the Jareño company designed and built them.

Besides the modernist lamps and other furniture in the reading room, the beautiful clock in the center of the room, made by Carlos Coppel, is particularly impressive.

In front of the reading room is a hallway that leads to other rooms within the library, where a large part of the library’s stock of books is still kept.

Another of the rooms on this floor is the Government Room (Salón de Gobierno) which, as well as housing some of the books, is used by the Academy’s members as a meeting room.

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