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EPS Historic Sites - The Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid, Spain

The ceremony declaring the Residencia de Estudiantes as an EPS Historic Site took place on 13 May 2015. It was presided over by EPS President Dr Christophe Rossel, Prof. J. Adolfo de Azcárraga, President of the Spanish Royal Physics Society [RSEF], Prof. Emilio Lora-Tamayo, President of the  Spanish National Research Council [CSIC] and Alicia Gómez-Navarro, Director of the Residencia de Estudiantes.

This act recognises the role of the Residencia de Estudiantes in the development of physics during the so-called Silver Age of Spanish Science, 1910-1936. As the plaque designating the Residencia as an EPS Historic Site states, the Residencia, under the supervision of Blas Cabrera (director of the neighbouring Laboratory of Physics Research and a former president of the RSEF), contributed strongly to the development of modern physics in Spain. Many illustrious physicists came to speak at the Residencia including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Maurice de Broglie, Arthur Eddington or Paul Scherrer; the Spanish physicists Blas Cabrera, Julio Palacios, Miguel Catalán, the physical chemist Enrique Moles, and many others also participated at the Residencia’s evening seminars.

The important role of the Residencia in fostering physics and science goes hand in hand with the humanists living in the Residencia, a group which included such luminaries as the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, the painter Salvador Dalí or the filmmaker Luis Buñuel. It is in front of such a rich background that the EPS Historic Site nomination does justice to physics and to the scientists around the Residencia by recognizing science as a fundamental part of culture, on a par with literature or art.

The founders of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (ILE, Free Institution for Education), and the Junta de Ampliación de Estudios e Investigaciones Científicas (JAE, Board for Further Studies and Scientific Research, established in 1907) which was presided over by the Nobel prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal and was behind the creation of the Residencia in 1910, understood the role of science very well. They thought of it as an essential ingredient of knowledge, culture and -last but by no means least- of social progress. As a result, the Residencia soon became the hub of exchange and diffusion of new scientific ideas, in physics in particular, that the EPS now commemorates. As was obvious to the leaders of the ILE and the JAE a century ago, education and science play a central and ever increasing role in the development and well-being of society. Let this happy occasion, in which we recognise the Residencia as an EPS Historic Site, remind us that scientific progress is rather hard to achieve, that it takes a long time to set it on track but that, unfortunately, it may be derailed and halted very easily if research is not properly cared for.

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The Residencia contributed strongly to the development of modern physics in Spain.

Unveiling of the commemorative plaque.
Left to right: C. Rossel , J. Adolfo de Azcárraga, E. Lora-Tamayo and A. Gómez-Navarro

© J. Adolfo de Azcárraga
- right-click to enlarge image
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