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Wednesday, 21 October 2015 00:00

Ángela del Valle López included in the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain

On September 30, Educator Ángela del Valle López became a scholar of the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain, Humanities section.

1017-1At the ceremony she gave the inaugural address on the theme: A call to the Central University in the early decades of the twentieth century: scientific productivity. This was followed by a speech given by Dr. Emilio de Diego Garcia, Secretary General and Academician of the Academy, who spoke on behalf of the Academy.

Jesús Alvarez Fernández-Represa, President of the Royal Academic of Doctors of Spain, noted at the beginning of the ceremony, that the Chair of Medal Number 2 of the Humanities Section had been left vacant by the death of Dr. Angeles Galino Carrillo, and that Dr. Ángela del Valle was chosen to occupy this seat.

A minority faculty that maintained productivity at the Central University in the early twentieth century

Summary of the speech given by  Ángela del Valle López.

In the complex political, social and economic situation of Spain in the early twentieth century (1900-1923), the scientific productivity of the Central University of Madrid portrayed a significantly positive image, although the same does not apply to the cumulative production by each professor, with a marked difference between the work of a few individuals and the entire teaching staff. This conclusion is part Ángela del Valle López’s inaugural speech as member of the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain (RADE).

 In the beginning of her speech, Dr. Del Valle, who was member of RADE since 1990, expressed gratitude for the distinction to receive the Chair of Dr. Ángeles Galino Carrillo, with whom she had worked as part of her team for many years.

 "It is proper to state -said Dr. Del Valle in her conclusions- that in the Spain of the early twentieth century, amid the vicissitudes of those years, a small group of university professors worked as leaven, as in every country, playing the role of a disturbing minority, stirring and trying to orient the whole mass towards the scientific and cultural ideals. There had been aspirations to incorporate a European mentality of innovation, represented by France, Germany and other countries, which was important to assimilate in order to invigorate our university spirit. At this juncture, the Central University laid the foundations for the wise, the philosopher, the educator, and scientific research to emerge, not only by teaching and transmitting knowledge, but by generating research activity in some areas of science, where Spain was a leader in the world."

 Dr. Del Valle recalled the general context of the country at the beginning of the twentieth century: the social impact of the crisis of 98 and the formation of a new cultural, political and educational landscape of enormous importance; and the European landscape, buffeted by the First World War and the threat of economic crisis. In Spain this was a stage of revisionism. Political changes and educational reforms were short-range and could not prevent the gradual collapse of the system. The Ministry of Pubic Education and Fine Arts was created and and a university reform was initiated but it failed to be implemented. Coalition governments alternated until 1917. Social problems worsened struggles between employers and workers, religious issues resurfaced with growing protests against the Church, especially in the area of education; a military issue reappeared, sentiments of nationalism became belligerent, the situation in Morocco burst into war, the crisis of 1917 was motivated by the lack of means for the great social majority. Thereafter the decline was complete. Political protests, labor disputes and the military disaster added up and this ended in the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. 

The coveted university autonomy

Legislative attempts regarding the University system between 1900-1902 were a response to complaints from the University system that requested autonomy, tired of the bureaucratic burden and ideological control to which it had been subjected.  The University system received legal status and it was as recognized somewhat  independent from government structures: the University President, with the help of the Board of Trustees had extensive powers in financial matters and had authority within the University ; The Faculty Senate represented the faculty; the Special Faculty Senate of Doctors and Students Association had little ability to make decisions; the Faculty Senate participated in the election of the University President; but the minister made decision on the boards to award tenure and faculty rankings.

Still much remained to be done, as Dr. Del Valle said. The shortage of funds and the lack of effectiveness of the Faculty Senate, which met occasionally, were widely criticized by the faculty. In 1919, the minister César Silió, under the presidency of Maura, surprised everyone by declaring an ambitious reform on university autonomy. One of the innovations was that each faculty members was linked to a particular university, thus reducing government interference. The reform, criticized by all sectors, was not practical for economic reasons: the sources of funds of the university did not reach the minimum to cover expenses for their survival. In 1922 another royal decree ended university autonomy and suspended the reform. Autonomy was thus put aside, and it was not revisited until the establishment of the Constitution of 1978 and the Law on University Reform of 1983


The concept of mission of the university in those years was centered around a utilitarian idea, purely scientific, educational and social.  In the Spain of the XIX century, the University model of German Humboldt had entered with force.  It was more about the search for truth and teaching modes to advance knowledge that the transfer of knowledge; more about humanistic principles than utilitarian purposes; more about the formation of one’s own moral character as a liberal human being (free and generous) than abut vocational training. The English model, which proposed a more intellectual than scientific university, more educational than instructive, was the favorite of Giner de los Ríos.  Ortega y Gasset recognized three purposes: professional, research and knowledge. The reform of 1919 came to ratify a double mission of the university: professional, but also for research and knowledge.

In the early twentieth the Central University sought by all means to fulfill its mission so that research and teaching would not be weakened. The problem was how to do it efficiently because they lacked the necessary elements, said Dr. Del Valle.

"Because of the scarcity of public resources, the weak economic development, the stagnation of university structures, the notorious lack of premises in 1900, all made teaching and scientific research very difficult, which were only possible thanks to the tenacity and willingness of some faculty committed to overcome those barriers," said Dr. Del Valle. Then she highlighted the role, amid all the aforementioned difficulties, of many outstanding faculty researchers.  In the medical field Santiago Ramon y Cajal, renowned scientist who established the foundations of neurology, stands out. In the field of philosophy and letters, the figure of Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo stands above disputes and controversies. Francisco Giner de los Ríos, with his multidisciplinary expertise, shines in the field of jurisprudence.  In the field of science, with its various branches, one finds a long list of relevant professors such Ignacio Bolivar (biology); Odón de Buen (zoology); Eduardo de los Reyes, (botany); Salvador Calderón and Eduardo Hernández( geology); Blas Cabrera (experimental physicis); and Miguel Vegas, Luis Octavio de Toledo and Julio Rey Pastor (mathematics), and Luis Octavio de Toledo and Julio Rey Pastor. Francisco de Castro and José Francisco Carracido excelled in the area of pharmacy.

Teacher from birth

As the daughter and granddaughter of primary school teachers, Dr. Angela del Valle seemed destined to teaching, said Dr. Emilio de Diego García in his reply to the inaugural speech of the new member of the Royal Academy. She studied Education, then she graduated from Complutense University with a degree in Pedagogy the and completed her doctorate in Barcelona.

For years she was a teacher, just like her parents and grandfather. Then she served as coordinator of the Institute for Research and Educational Studies Somosaguas and later as Professor at Complutense University. From 2008 to 2011 she was Professor Emeritus.

During over half a century of teaching and nearly four decades of research she has participated in twenty projects.  She has also directed 22 doctoral theses, written fifteen books and has co-authored over 20 books, written dozens of articles and participated in numerous conferences, seminars and workshops. All of above, as noted by Dr. De Diego, with extraordinary quality that supports different awards, including the National Research of the Council of Universities Award.

 Video of the event here.

Information: Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain.