Posts about Science

477. juan pedro garrahan

14 Aug 2012

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Pedro Garrahan

Born in 1893 in Buenos Aires, Juan Pedro Garrahan was second-generation Argentine born of Irish immigrants. His grandparents were from Westmeath County & arrived long before European immigration began in earnest in the 1880s.

Juan entered the Facultad de Medicina in 1908 & graduated with honors in 1915 at the age of 22. Immediately he began working in pediatrics & formed part of the Hospital Rivadavia & Hospital de Clínicas. In 1924, he married María Rosa Prando which explains his placement in their family tomb in Recoleta Cemetery.

One website notes that Garrahan strived to improve diagnostic procedures in order to minimize intrusion. As Chair of Pediatrics in 1945, he resigned from the post during the Perón era. Garrahan resumed the post after the 1955 Revolución Libertadora. After numerous publications & forming part of pediatric societies in Brazil, Spain, France & Chile, Garrahan passed away in April 1965. In 1979, the national pediatrics hospital located in Parque Patricios was named after him:

Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios, Hospital Garrahan

435. burgos y colón

17 Sep 2011

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Burgos y Colón, Enrique Finochietto

Although plain & simple by Recoleta standards, this family vault contains two of the greatest surgeons in Argentine history. Enrique Finochietto entered medical school in Buenos Aires at the age of 16 & earned his degree with honors in 1904. After spending some time as a surgical intern specializing in skin & venereal disease, Enrique took his first trip to Europe to learn new techniques, brought them back to Argentina & was named head of surgery at Hospital Rawson. He would not sit still for long.

Enrique returned to Europe during World War I, meeting Marcelo T. de Alvear in Paris, where they jointly set up a hospital for the wounded. The French were so grateful that they awarded Enrique the Legion of Honor medal. Returning to Buenos Aires, the Finochietto brothers opened the new, cutting-edge surgical wing of the Hospital Rawson & Enrique began inventing surgical instruments… among them the frontolux, inspired by a miner’s head gear. After a long history of medical accomplishments, Enrique succumbed to syphilis in 1948.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Burgos y Colón, Enrique Finochietto

Enrique’s younger brother, Ricardo, followed in his footsteps but was more geared toward teaching than inventions. He traveled to the United States in the 1930’s & implented the system of residency in Argentina by establishing a surgical school specifically for recent graduates to improve their technique.

In 1950 while head of the Polyclinic in Avellaneda, Ricardo was designated as Eva Perón’s head physician. With an advanced case of uterine cancer, he could do little to ease Evita’s pain & was present when U.S. surgeon George Pack performed a hysterectomy. In the 1952 photo below, Ricardo appears on the far right. After the Revolución Libertadora which ousted Perón, Ricardo’s ties with the previous administration prevented him from working in the public sphere. He passed away in 1962.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ricardo Finochietto, Eva Perón

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Burgos y Colón, Ricardo Finochietto

What remains unclear is why Enrique & Ricardo Finochietto are in this particular family vault. Since the mausoleum is not in their name, perhaps it belongs to a family member by marriage. Stay tuned for updates!

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ricardo Finochietto, Enrique Finochietto

Update (21 Oct 2011):  The third Finochietto brother, Miguel Ángel, was also a surgeon & worked alongside Enrique at the Hospital Rawson. He, too, is buried in Recoleta Cemetery but in a different vault… the exact location of which is still unknown. While searching through my thousands of Recoleta Cemetery photos, I stumbled across the following plaque for Miguel Ángel (photo from 2007):

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Ángel Finochietto

Despite three attempts, I haven’t been able to find this plaque again in the cemetery. Today, I talked with one of the caretakers in the area where he should be buried (judging from the photos I took before & after) & most likely the vault for Miguel Ángel was recently sold. Still have to confirm with Administración, but it seems likely that he has moved to another cemetery.

423. guillermo rawson

25 Jun 2011

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Guillermo Rawson

Born in San Juan in 1821 to a US immigrant father & a criolla mother of Welsh descent, Dr. Guillermo Rawson exercised enormous influence during the early years of Argentina. Completing medical studies in Buenos Aires with honors in 1844, Rawson returned to San Juan to set up his own practice but also became involved with politics. Opposing Rosas & at times even at odds with Urquiza, Rawson returned for good to Buenos Aires in 1861 where he was given a seat in the Senate.

So much was happening in politics at the time & Rawson landed in the middle of it all. After reinstatement of Buenos Aires in the Confederation following the Battle of Pavón, one of the biggest issues became where to place the national capital. Many Senators were against the idea of Buenos Aires due to the Rosas era & subsequent conflict, but Rawson argued that national & local powers should share the same space in BA temporarily… a way to heal the wounds & learn to work together. His plan worked until 1880 when the city of La Plata was created to govern the province.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Guillermo Rawson

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Guillermo Rawson

In 1862, President Mitre elected Rawson as Minister of the Interior. He was responsible for approving construction of the first train lines in Argentina. Another of Rawson’s major projects—likely because of his family history—was granting permission for Welsh colonists to settle in Chubut. As a result, they named the settlement after him (Trerawson in Welsh, or “Rawson’s town”), & it is now the provincial capital.

Patagonia, Chubut, Argentina, Rawson, Plaza Rawson

Disputes with Domingo Faustino Sarmiento & Rufino de Elizalde would cost him a bid for the Presidency, but Rawson remained in national politics by serving in the Congress. His focus returned to medicine during the later part of his life, studying epidemics & health demographics… perhaps because of the death of his brother, Benjamin Franklin Rawson, during a yellow fever epidemic in 1871. In 1880 along with fellow doctor Toribio Ayerza, Rawson founded the Red Cross in Argentina. Dividing time between teaching, research & trips to France for a cataract problem, Rawson died in Paris in 1890 with barely a cent to his name. His remains were returned to Argentina two years later & eventually placed in a crypt in Recoleta Cemetery.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Guillermo Rawson

419. atilio massone ◊

19 Apr 2011

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Atilio Massone

A massive vault with Art Deco reliefs full of emotion & allegory. Circle the entire structure to find representations of all stages of life: birth, adulthood & old age.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Atilio Massone

Atilio Massone (father) arrived from Genoa in 1889, doing much to assist fellow Italian immigrants in his neighborhood of La Boca. He later started a successful pharmaceutical company taken over by his sons, Arnaldo & Atilio (junior). They founded the Instituto Massone, known for research in isolating biochemical compounds such as insulin & producing antibiotics. The institute was closed by the Perón government in 1950 supposedly for poor hygiene when in reality the Massone brothers refused to pay compulsory “donations” to the Eva Perón Foundation. It reopened in 1968 after Perón’s forced exile.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Atilio Massone

This family vault has been recently cleaned & regular readers know that we are big fans of restoration. Not only does it preserve the cemetery for future generations, but it also gives us a look into the past… a glimpse of what tombs were like when first constructed. That said, details fail to stand out like they did prior to restoration. This tomb is good for debate: should tombs be completely restored or should some remain intact, letting the passage of time do its work?

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Atilio Massone

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Atilio Massone

411. sociedad científica argentina

08 Mar 2011

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Sociedad Científica Argentina

Group pantheons are rare in Recoleta Cemetery. Organizations usually choose Chacarita Cemetery while Recoleta attracts families & individuals. But given the social status of the Sociedad Científica Argentina, it’s not surprising they’re here.

During the 1850’s & 1860’s, medical & scientific societies formed—often with a very specific field of interest—in order to advance progress in these areas. As a relatively new nation with many issues to resolve, science often took a back seat. University students decided to change that. While still in the Department of Exact Sciences, students such as future engineers Luis Huergo & Santiago Barabino found support in their older peers, like Germán Burmeister, to found the society in 1872.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Sociedad Científica Argentina

The SCA encouraged the study of science through a series of expeditions & conferences. They partially funded Francisco Perito Moreno’s groundbreaking research trip to Patagonia & hosted important international conferences in 1898 & 1910. By the 1920’s, the organization had become so respected that the city government ceded land on Avenida Sante Fe in Retiro for the SCA to build their headquarters:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Sociedad Científica Argentina

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Sociedad Científica Argentina

Still an influential institution today, members can opt for burial in the society’s pantheon. Numerous plaques list some of the occupants, such as analytical chemist Reinaldo Vanossi & biophysicist Máximo Valentinuzzi. The statue of Christ is the vault’s most outstanding feature & often has flowers placed at its feet.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Sociedad Científica Argentina

Interior photo courtesy of the Sociedad Científica Argentina.

First photo can be viewed larger in Flickr.

398. familia federico r. leloir ◊

05 Mar 2010

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Family founder Federico Augusto Rufino Leloir Bernal possessed a large land fortune along the southern coast of the Buenos Aires Province. He & his wife traveled to Paris in 1906 for medical reasons, but unfortunately Federico passed away. One week later, Luis Federico was born… the last of five siblings.

Luis Federico Leloir without doubt became the most famous member of the family. His 1949 discoveries in biochemisty led to a Nobel Prize in 1970. Leloir & his team were the first to identify nucleotide sugars which are instrumental in accumulating energy stores in the human body:

UDP, Leloir

Ten years after his initial discovery, Leloir found that nucleotide sugars are responsible for transferring sugars to molecules which grow to an immense size & become glycogen… seemingly endless chains of glucose waiting to be broken down to provide energy:

glycogen molecule

As his studies progressed, Leloir proved that human biosynthesis is not merely a reversal of breakdown, as had been assumed earlier. On the contrary, they are distinct processes. Leloir’s principle was also shown to be valid with proteins and nucleic acids, leading to discoveries about organ donor rejection & lactose intolerance. Leloir passed away in 1987, five years after receiving a cross from the French Legion of Honor.

The family vault, built in 1906 with opulent Art Nouveau decoration, is one of the tallest in the cemetery:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

What distinguishes the mausoleum are its mosaics. The underneath side of the dome is decorated with an image of Christ surrounded by angels. The mosaic can be seen from the interior of the mausoleum through a skylight… Christ appears dramatically overhead:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

The interior is also lavishly decorated with mosaics & Art Nouveau imagery… press your nose to the glass for a look inside:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Leloir also has one other claim to fame:  the invention of a condiment. He came up with salsa golf at the Golf Club at the seaside resort of Mar del Plata. Basically a combination of mayonnaise & ketchup, it remains a popular, non-spicy alternative to cocktail sauce & a key ingredient of a local salad made with hearts of palm.

Like Art Nouveau? Get to know the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from Endless Mile. This tomb is listed in the guide.