Jimena Quirós: the first Spanish oceanographer

Jimena Quirós Fernández y Tello was born in Almería on December 5, 1899. She was the youngest daughter of José María Quirós Martín, an engineer who had come from Madrid to Almería as an explosives agent for mining, and Carmen Fernández-Tello, a qualified teacher who opened a private school in the city. Thanks to this activity, the teacher supported all her offspring after the father left the family shortly after Jimena was born.

Jimena moved to Madrid in 1917 to study Sciences at the time central University. As for many students of the time, the Ladies Residence It was the place where he lived and was related to relevant women from the worlds of culture, science and politics of the first half of the 20th century: Maruja Mallo, María Zambrano, Clara Campoamor, Matilde Huici and Victoria Kent were some of they.

Her interest in oceanography grew and, in April 1920 and while continuing her studies, she began working as an intern at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), a center founded in 1914 and dedicated to marine science research.

She graduated in Science with an extraordinary prize in 1921 and, a few months later, she became the first Spanish scientist to embark on an oceanographic campaign. The expedition, led by the IEO, took place aboard the Giralda ship, lasted a month and traveled the Spanish shores of the Mediterranean. Jimena worked as an assistant to the French oceanographer and naturalist Julien Thoulet.

Upon his return, and at only 22 years old, he won a competitive examination and joined the IEO laboratory in the Balearic Islands. She was the first scientist in the history of the institution.

In 1922 he traveled to the laboratories located in Malaga to investigate the biology of mollusks. From this study his first scientific article was born, Some edible mollusks from the province of Malaga, published in the Fishing Bulletin of the IEO in 1923. It was the first article in the area of ​​marine sciences that a woman signed in Spain. In this publication, Jimena detailed the biology of more than forty species, and also reported the depletion of some in fishing areas of the Bay of Malaga.

After completing this research, he returned to the IEO headquarters in Madrid and continued with his training. In 1925, M. Adrien Robert, professor at the Sorbonne (Paris), taught a course in marine biology at the IEO. Interested in the subject, Jimena went to work during the summer at the Laboratory of the University of Paris and at the Roscoff Biological Station on the northern coast of Brittany (France).

In 1926 the young researcher was awarded a one-year scholarship to join the Physiography Laboratory of Columbia University in New York (USA). There, tutored by some of the best scientists of the time, she studied the physical geography of the atmosphere and the oceans.

In 1930, after the fall of the dictatorship of Cousin of Rivera, Jimena began to military in the Republican Radical Socialist Party. From 1932 on, she chaired the party’s Women’s Committee in its quest to achieve equal rights for women.

In May 1932 it was sent to the Cantabrian Sea to obtain oceanographic data. For three months and daily, the scientist took measurements of the temperature, transparency and salinity of the water in a station inside the bay of Santander and another outside.

The researcher noted in her reports the methodological errors in the guidelines that had been given to her for the samplings, being very critical of the work that had been carried out in recent years in the bay. In fact, it completely changed the design of the project.

Upon her return, due to disagreements with some people from the IEO, a disciplinary file was opened, from which she was exonerated in mid-1934 due to the lack of foundation of the accusations.

In June 1933, in the midst of a process of disagreement with the IEO, Jimena obtained her teaching degree for secondary schools and worked during a course as a Natural History teacher at the New National Institute of Bilbao.

At the end of 1934 she returned to Madrid and rejoined the IEO, until the beginning of the Civil War, at which time the Government of the Republic asked her to return to practice as a high school teacher.

Dismissed for leftist

After the war ended, the national side ordered Jimena to return to Madrid and appear before the Ministry of the Navy, which began to investigate her. In October 1940 he was informed its definitive cessation when considering it «Of leftist ideas, for having belonged to the Radical Socialist Party since its foundation, having taken part in the deliberations and debates of the Party Congress and, when the Uprising took place, continuing to make manifestations of the same ideology and, in relation to the leaders of the Popular Front, having received different positions, predominantly cultural.

He survived from that moment giving private lessons in a private academy and taking care of his mother.

In 1966, Jimena Quirós undertook another – the last – legal battle to demand her re-entry into the IEO. She obtained her rehabilitation three years later, although she continued to claim all her rights, obtaining recognition for her three years, including the years in which she was dismissed from the institution. She died in Madrid in 1983.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. You can read it here.

This review is based primarily on the article Jimena Quirós: the Civil War truncated the career of the first oceanographer in the history of Spain by Pablo Lozano, which was published on the Oceánica blog on October 30, 2018.

The project Oceanic: women and oceanography of the IEO «aims to disseminate the work of scientists dedicated to the study of the oceans, both current and past, make their life and work known, thus trying to generate scientific vocations in girls and boys, encourage their creativity, their ability to decision and equal treatment in the face of gender inequalities from an early age ”.


Source: elDiario – elDiario by www.eldiario.es.

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