Eminent professor and humanist scientist
Antonio Fernández-Rañada and Menéndez de Luarca (1939-2022)
The death of Professor of Physics Antonio Fernández-Rañada leaves a notable void in our academic world. Professor Rañada outstandingly combined the exercise of university teaching, the practice of scientific research and reflection on the scope of Science. A lifetime, full of Science and Humanism.
After graduating in Physical Sciences at the Complutense University, he received his doctorate at the University of Paris in 1965, to do so shortly after also at his Cisnerian alma mater. His journey through various teaching and research activities has been very enriching. He worked at the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (Ciemat) and was a professor of Quantum Mechanics at the University of Barcelona. But most of his professional career was devoted to the Complutense University where he served as professor of Theoretical Physics and Electromagnetism. He left his research mark studying the Physics of elementary particles and various issues of Mathematical Physics and nonlinear dynamics, also dedicating efforts to unravel the mystery of the so-called ball rays.
An obligated lecturer in numerous instances, he always attended to his firm commitment to spread his wise word and his reflections to as many places and audiences as could benefit from it, of which I can attest. He also chaired the Royal Spanish Society of Physics (2005-2010). Committed to his Asturian roots, he collaborated extensively with the foundation that awards the Prince (now Princess) of Asturias Awards, contributing decisively in the early years to setting the criteria for awarding these awards that stand out today on the international scene.
Antonio Fernández-Rañada not only did quality science, but he knew how to reflect on its scope for human beings and for the society in which his life is framed. His book ‘Scientists and God’ (Trotta, 2008) is a journey through the attitude, before the transcendence and the question of the existence of God, of many of the scientists who have forged the foundations of the knowledge that we currently have. From Faraday to Darwin and Hawkins, or from Einstein to Monod and many others, his thoughts and reflections run through this text. Another fundamental book by Professor Rañada is ‘The Many Faces of Science’ in which he shows how a timeless beauty can be perceived in the laws that govern the behavior of matter; “Newtonian dynamics, relativistic cosmology, algebraic topology or biological evolution can arouse a fascination not very different from the emotion of music, painting or poetry in its highest creations,” says Rañada, subscribing to an authoritative opinion on the unity of knowledge.
Although he never looked for them, he has not lacked recognition and distinctions. Among them, the medal of the Royal Spanish Society of Physics (1985), the Jovellanos International Essay Prize (1994) and the Silver medal of the Principality of Asturias (1999). Rest in peace who did so much good from the dedication that excited him so much.