The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 1179 - 1191 (2009)

Vol 53, Issue 8-9-10

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Hispania (Spain & Portugal)

A perspective on the development of Genetics in Spain during the XX Century

Essay | Published: 2 November 2009

Alfonso Martinez-Arias*

Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


At the beginning of the XXI Century, Spanish Biology lives a period of unprecedented growth and development. This situation owes much to the stability of the last few years and breaks a pattern in which Science was the activity of a few self-taught individuals working within an indifferent environment. The development of Genetics is a good example of these factors. A long isolated period dating back to the 1500s was broken at the beginning of the XX Century through the creation of a number of institutions and, in particular the Junta de Ampliacion de Estudios, which created a seed for scientific development and had a significant effect in the area of Genetics. However, the Spanish civil war destroyed this seed and forced a new beginning. Throughout the second half of the century, steady progress, largely driven by individuals formed abroad and returning to Spain with knowledge and methods, has been the basis for the establishment of a scientific ingrastructure from which Spain is making important contributions to modern biology. The person of Antonio Garcia-Bellido has emerged over the last 40 years as a reference for modern genetics and also as the root of an important, perhaps the only, real school in this area of work.


genetics, Spain, history, Drosophila, Junta de Ampliacion de Estudios

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