The Municipal Laboratory of Seville has its main headquarters in María Auxiliadora Street, which is part of the so-called “historic round” of the city. It is a building inaugurated in 1912, the work of the architect Antonio Arévalo Martínez.
It is built in a very original eclectic style and stands out among the surrounding buildings for its monumentality and rich decoration. In it we find elements of clear modernist influence, such as the wavy cresting that runs along the upper part of the central body or the upper semicircular “pediment” on the central balcony, with a curious decoration based on circles. Historicist elements also appear, especially of the Neo-Plateresque type, which at the time was the style preferred by the City Council for public buildings. We see its influence, for example, in the large flames that appear on the upper cornice, or in the richly ornamented "balustraded" columns that frame the main openings of the upper floor.
The Laboratory was created in 1883 in order to ensure the health of the city of Seville, carrying out functions related to hygiene and food. It was about putting a stop through laboratory analysis to the increasing adulterations and counterfeits in food products that had been detected and that led to important health problems. To the analysis of water and food, the functions of the Laboratory include the control of pests, the collection of abandoned animals or the fight against rabies.
At present, this building in María Auxiliadora continues to be the headquarters of some sections of the Laboratory, such as the administration, or the Clinical Analysis and Epidemiology section and the Assurance and Quality Analysis section. In addition, it has a more recent headquarters on the Malaga road, the Municipal Zoosanitary Center. There are the sections related to animal protection and pest control.
The façade of the historic headquarters is covered by a series of eleven posters that collect the names of eleven scientists, noted for their contribution in the field of public health and the fight against infectious diseases. Among them are some of the essential names for the development and application of vaccines since the 18th century.
This is the case of the Englishman Edward Jenner (1749-1823), who based on previous work and practices, was the first to systematically apply a vaccine against smallpox in humans, based on the inoculation of the cowpox virus, a version less severe disease. Jenner made his discovery after observing that milkers who suffered from the bovine version of the disease by contact were later immune to the human variant.
Almost a century later, the Frenchman Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), created a vaccine against cholera in birds based on the previous weakening of the bacteria that causes the disease. In addition, he decided to call it a “vaccine” in honor of Jenner, who published an initial description of his findings in a work called An Inquiry intro the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ. or bovine). Years later, Pasteur applied the same principle to weaken the pathogenic principle that causes rabies, in this case a virus. He thus developed the first vaccine against rabies in 1885. In these investigations he had the collaboration of the doctor and researcher Émile Roux (1853-1933), who is another of the scientists whose name appears on the facade of the Laboratory.
The Spanish Jaime Ferrán (1851-1929) is another of those honored on the façade. In this case, using very limited resources and closely following Pasteur's research, Ferrán developed the first vaccine against cholera, based on the weakening of the bacteria that causes it, and is also the first bacterial vaccine applied in humans.
In addition to these four scientists, especially prominent in the field of immunology, the names of seven others appear on the cartels, with important contributions in the global field of improving public health. In chronological order, we can mention:
- Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), French chemist and biologist, considered the “father of modern chemistry”. His scientific contribution is enormous and he addressed subjects as diverse as animal respiration, photosynthesis or the oxidation of bodies. He enunciated the so-called "Law of conservation of matter" or "Lomonosov-Lavoisier law": matter is neither created nor destroyed, it is only transformed.
- The Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) is also considered one of the "fathers" of modern chemistry. He devised the modern chemical notation system and discovered three elements: thorium, cerium, and selenium.
- The Frenchman Marcellin Berthelot (1827-1907) is one of the most relevant figures in the origins of organic chemistry, when he managed to synthesize numerous organic compounds in the laboratory, such as methane, acetylene and benzene. The important work of him in the beginnings of thermodynamics can also be highlighted, since he was the first to describe the difference between exothermic and endothermic reactions.
-Robert Koch (1843-1910) was a German physician and microbiologist, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905. He discovered the tuberculosis and cholera bacillus and established the direct relationship between infection by a microorganism and the development of a disease .
- The year after Koch's, the Nobel Prize in Medicine would go to the Spanish Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934), considered by many “father of neuroscience”. He stood out above all for his study of nerve cells or neurons, describing for the first time their morphology and connective processes.
- The German doctor and bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) stood out above all for creating the first effective treatment against syphilis, for which he defined the concept of chemotherapy for the first time.
-Pierre Curie (1859-1906) was a French physicist, pioneer in the study of radioactivity, together with his wife, Marie Curie. Among its practical applications, there are some very important in the field of medicine, such as diagnostic aid, by allowing the obtaining of images of the interior of the body, or the treatment of certain tumor diseases through the application of radiation.
In short, the names on the façade of the Municipal Laboratory of Seville serve us to make a small history of medicine between the mid-18th and early 20th centuries, in addition to serving as a well-deserved tribute to those who, with their work, have helped to save so many lives.