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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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David Vázquez Martínez and Emilio Rosenblueth

Prince of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research 1985

For the significant merit of his creative work in science.

David Vázquez Martínez

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The teacher of various generations of Spanish scientists and an outstanding researcher in the fields of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Microbiology, David Vázquez (Tucumán, Argentina, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 1986), to Asturian parents, after studying at university in Spain and England, in 1954 he graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Madrid with a first-class cum laude degree. In 1959 he received his doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Madrid and in 1965 from Cambridge, England, Microbiology being the main subject of his studies.

He did his first post-doctorate work in the national Institute of Agronomy in Paris, in the National Institute for Dairy Product Research in Reading, United Kingdom and at the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Laboratory at Cambridge, United Kingdom. In 1963 he joined the Higher Council for Scientific Research (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - CSIC) in Spain, beginning his work in the Cell Biology Institute. As a scientific contributor, he did research work and felt the beneficial influence of other dynamic young biologists such as Alberto Sols or Manuel Losada. His work centred, basically, on the mechanisms of biological synthesis of proteins and the action of antibiotics. regarding the latter, he carried out important research which clarified the mechanisms of the actions of various antibiotics, especially those which paralyse the protein assembly mechanisms of pathogenic organisms without affecting the host cells.

Outstanding as the main Spanish researcher into antibiotics, David Vázquez carried out practically all his scientific work in connection with the Higher Council for Scientific Research. In 1967 he was appointed as a scientific researcher, and in 1971, as a Research Lecturer of the CSIC, the highest grade which exists in this body. From 1968 on he took charge of running the Council's Institutes of Cell Biology and Macromolecular Biochemistry, also participating on the Board of the Institute of Molecular Biology.

A numerary member of the council between 1975 and 1977, he was subsequently the founding-chairman of the Santiago Ramón y Cajal Board; president of the Spanish Society of Microbiology; lecturer and director of the Microbiology department of the Science Faculty of the Autonomous University of Madrid; president, from 1984 until his death, of the Spanish Society of Biochemistry and a numerary member of the Royal Academy of Natural, Physical and Exact Sciences.

He was, furthermore, a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Juan March Foundation, a post from which he played a crucial role in promoting the activities of the Foundation in the support of Spanish science. The prestige of David Vázquez in the field of his scientific activity is universal, and he always appeared as a speaker in every congress on protein biosynthesis or the mechanisms of antibiotic action held anywhere in the world.

He himself organised international symposia in Spain. From his work on these meetings the results were some hundred lectures given, among others, at the annual congresses of the European Federation of Societies of Biochemistry and World Biochemistry Congresses. He was, likewise, the author of more than 260 research works published in major Spanish and international journals.

The Higher Council for Scientific Research, the Asturian School of Hispanic Studies and the "San Pedro" Festival and Cultural Society of La Felguera, among other bodies and associations, paid posthumous tribute to him. In his memory, a monument has been raised in the Plaza Sesta, in La Felguera, the Asturian town where his family came from.

Emilio Rosenblueth

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A seismic engineer, his studies have allowed the construction of buildings of great height, dams and nuclear power stations in regions of the planet where there is a risk of earthquakes.

Emilio Rosenblueth (Ciudad de México, Mexico, 1926 – 1994) spent thirty years dedicated to the investigation of seismic phenomena, and particularly to the study of the behaviour of buildings when faced with earthquakes. He taught Earthquake Engineering for more than three decades at the Civil Engineering Institute, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he was the coordinator of scientific research and was appointed Emeritus Researcher in 1988. Holder of a PhD from the University of Illinois (USA), he was undersecretary of the Secretariat of Public Education of Mexico (1978-1982), advisor to UNESCO and the Organization of American States (OAS) on seismic and scientific research, and participated as a visiting professor and advisor in scientific programmes in Canada, Great Britain, China and the United States, as well as in other Latin American, Asian and Mediterranean countries. He also worked for the Mexican company Ingenieros Civiles Asociados (ICA). In 1985, he was distinguished with the title of National Researcher, the highest merit granted to a scientist in his country.

A member of a family of outstanding researchers, he became interested in seismic phenomenology due to Mexico's own location in one of the most active earthquake areas of the globe. In his opinion the design of structures for buildings in seismic risk areas, is not only a technical question, but also an ethical one, as the engineer is forced to take decisions which have repercussions for society. This belief leads him to a commitment, considered as a humanistic aspect of his work, which he sees as a form of social contract.

Research in this field is being carried on on three fronts: the probability description of the seismicity and frequency of the occurrence of tremors; the study of soil dynamics; and the design of ideal structures to resist these movements. With the progress of these three aspects buildings are ever-safer in seismic high risk areas. Thanks to the latest studies, and in large part due to the discoveries of professor Rosenblueth, it has been possible to construct buildings of considerable height, dams and such complex constructions as nuclear power stations, which require structures of absolute precision and safety, in countries periodically affected by earth tremors.

Emilio Rosenblueth applied probability calculus to this and other fields of engineering. His works have been taken as a point of reference for the drafting of guidance regulations for the construction of buildings, the parameters for which vary with the future use of the building, the type of terrain upon which it stands and its seismicity.

Holder of the Scientific Research Award of the Mexican Academy of Sciences (1963) and member of the National College (1972), he received the Luis Elizondo Science Prize in 1973 and the National Science and Arts Award from the Government of Mexico in 1974.

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