Tombs of science

During my travels, I usually stop to visit some cemeteries. They tell, in crude and stripped language, stories of places, characters, cultures and conflicts. Montparnasse in Paris, Eyüp on the Pierre Loti hill in Istanbul, Recoleta in Buenos Aires, are some inescapable classics. Also the small cemeteries lost in the Cordovan countryside, such as the Capilla La Tegua, near Río Cuarto, have a gloomy charm, difficult to describe.

In the city of Córdoba itself, the cemetery of El Salvador or “of the dissidents”, summarizes in its burial mounds a foundational stage of local science. It is located next to the San Jerónimo cemetery, in the Alberdi neighborhood, on Emilio Centurión street. It was inaugurated in 1864 and in it were deposited the remains of numerous people, and several characters, who did not profess the Catholic religion. Among them, many of the scientific researchers that Domingo F. Sarmiento and Nicolás Avellaneda brought as illustrious immigrants, to form a Cordovan scientific pole. We are talking about the end of the 19th century.

Tombs of science

The list would be long. Shortly after entering we found the tomb of John Thome. North American, he came to Córdoba as an assistant to Benjamin Gould, the first director of the Argentine National Observatory, today the Astronomical Observatory of the National University of Córdoba. When Gould returned to America, Thome took his place as Director. Very close to him are the remains of María Stoecklin, one of the teachers who belonged to the contingent hired by Sarmiento for normal schools. Thome himself married one of those teachers: Frances Angelina Wall. A little further on, we find the remains of Charles Dillon Perrine, the last American to lead the Observatory. He was the mentor of the Bosque Alegre Astrophysical Station. He lived his last years in Villa General Miter, today Villa del Totoral.

Tombs of science

A few meters away, the tomb of Oscar Döering, a German physicist who, together with his brother Adolfo, was summoned to consolidate the National Academy of Sciences, in Córdoba, draws our attention. Oscar became Dean of the Faculty of Physical-Mathematical Sciences, today called the Faculty of Exact Physical and Natural Sciences of the UNC. Nearby, a bronze plaque with a relief shows an expedition through the Andes. It marks the grave of William Bodenbender. This German geologist was among the founding fathers of that discipline in Córdoba.

Tombs of science

It would be impossible in these few lines to make a complete count of all the researchers whose remains rest in the El Salvador cemetery. Suffice it to say that entering it and walking among its tombs means going back to the fertile scientific environment of Córdoba at the end of the 19th century.

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