Emiliano Aguirre, an example to follow
60 years ago, the lack of means, human and material equipment, and a true strategy for scientific research, surely frustrated more than one vocation. But Emiliano Aguirre he never gave up. Scientists are extremely curious and our main motivation is knowledge, that which completely filled Emiliano’s life.
With such a broad and diverse training, it cannot be surprising that it was always the source of wisdom that many of us drank from for years.
He belonged to the Society of Jesus for a time. He studied Humanities and Philosophy, but also graduated in Theology and Natural Sciences. With such a broad and diverse training, it is not surprising that it was always the source of wisdom from which many of us drank for years. He wrote texts with incredible mastery and, when someone asked him, he was able to find that comma or that accent that was missing or exceeded. He always told us that if we had doubts about how to write, the easiest thing was to do it with short sentences, in which the subject, the verb and the predicate were not missing.
Emiliano approached the realm of paleontology and decided to know more about the evolution of elephants during the Quaternary. That curiosity led him to travel to many countries where collections were kept. fossils of these animals. The result was a doctoral thesis of the first order.
When I asked him where he had learned such fluent English, he replied that it was during his travels around the world. And not only did he learn English and a lot about elephants, but he made friends with illustrious figures of science.
We were not credible when he told us about his meetings with Professors Clark Howell, Richard Leakey or Phillip Tobias
The young people who learned from him, we did not give credit when he told us about his meetings with the teachers Clark Howell, Richard Leakey O Phillip Tobias. From those encounters his passion for evolution of mankind, who in a very wise way was able to reconcile with his religious beliefs.
Emiliano Aguirre at the site of Galería de la Trinchera del Ferrocarril de la Sierra de Atapuerca. © José María Bermúdez de Castro
Interest in human evolution
Having studied various subjects related to the human being, it cannot surprise us that finally his vocation led him to turn to research on our origins. It was the 1970s and in Spain there was very little talk about prehistory and human evolution. But Emiliano was already prepared to receive a few human fossils found in 1976 by his doctoral student Trino Torres, at the Burgos site of La Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca.
Those fossils were not easy to interpret. In Spain there was hardly any information and Emiliano sought some help in France during his early studies. But we were already arriving the first generation of young Spaniards interested in prehistory and human evolution.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet him in person and enjoy his stories about geology, evolution or life in general, will miss him a lot.
He did not think twice and bet on all of us. We will never appreciate it enough. The first years in Atapuerca were very hard due to the lack of resources. But our enthusiasm and tenacity They were the key that opened the door to a scientific project of the first magnitude. After 45 years of uninterrupted research, we can already affirm that Atapuerca is not only a scientific project, but a research program on prehistory and human evolution with many ramifications in Africa and Eurasia.
Emiliano could justly boast of having laid the first stone of this program, in which an inexhaustible pool of young professionals has been and continues to be formed in matters related to the Quaternary.
Emiliano Aguirre will always be a mandatory reference in any study on 20th century Spanish science and in particular on prehistory and human evolution. His legacy is already in good hands, in the Foundation that bears his name and in the Atapuerca Foundation, available for those who want to know and enjoy the example of a true lover of knowledge.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet him in person and enjoy his stories about geology, evolution or life in general, will miss him very much. D.E.P
José María Bermúdez de Castro it is co-director of the Atapuerca project
Rights: Creative Commons.