Knowing the heritage of our Faculty: Prof. Christian Wilson tells the story of Prof. Carlos Ghigliotto Salas

Knowing the heritage of our Faculty: Prof. Christian Wilson tells the story of Prof. Carlos Ghigliotto Salas

Professor Christian Wilson conducted a historical investigation of one of the busts located in one of the courtyards of the Faculty, in front of the classroom building. It is the sculpture of Carlos Ghigliotto Salas, one of the first pharmacists in Chile and forging chemistry.

In the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Faculty on July 1, 2020, knowing the history of our founders becomes a relevant fact for the training of our students and for the assessment of our scientific and cultural heritage.

"Re-discovering Don Carlos Ghigliotto Salas: a world-renowned Chilean scientist.

By Prof. Christian Wilson.

It's very interesting that certain things that you see every day, become so familiar that we don't even ask about it. That happened to me with the bust of Don Carlos Ghigliotto. When I was studying at Vicuña Mackenna 20, I saw him coming in every day, and now at Santos Dumont 964, I see him every time I arrive or leave school. After being almost 20 years linked to the faculty came the consultation, who is Don Carlos Ghigliotto?

The first time I heard of him was in Professor Jorge Valenzuela Pedevila's Chemistry History classes. He mentioned that Carlos Ghigliotto was a professor of Analytical Chemistry. I consulted with more colleagues and very few knew him, and that bust is in college (the most they knew was that he was professor of analytical chemistry).

This bust has been in our faculty at least since 1942, where it is mentioned by Professor Hugo Lea-Plaza in a lecture read in the Honor Hall of the University of Chile, on November 11 of that year, on the occasion of the centenary festivities of the University (Lectures on the History of Chilean Medicine, Six Teachers: Bustillos, Izquierdo, García Valenzuela , Cadiz, Ghigliotto, Ducci, 1943, Medical Journal of Chile, 3, 312-324). Looking for information, I took the surprise that Don Carlos, in addition to being a great professor at the University of Chile, was a world-renowned scientist.

Don Carlos, as his students told him, was born in Valparaiso on June 10, 1868. He studied the course of Pharmacy at the School of Medicine and on June 7, 1891 he obtained the title of Pharmacist. He began working in the laboratories of the Institute of Hygiene where he was appointed assistant to the chemistry section becoming the head of the section in 1916.

In 1896 he was commissioned by the government to continue his studies in France, where he worked with great scientists of the time. He returned to Chile and was appointed professor of Analytical Chemistry in 1899 until his death in 1930.

His class book called "Notes of Analytical Chemistry" was consultation material in several Latin American countries. He was later appointed Professor of Bromatology and Toxicology (Schmidt Hebbel, 1986 "Following in the footsteps of the history of teaching pharmaceutical sciences in Chile: (1833-1985)").

His passion was research in a country where this field was nascent. And as his disciples say, he worked inexhaustiblely to achieve world-class science from Chile. And although he had great discoveries, he always maintained his modesty. His most important contribution worldwide was to discover that humans have Zinc in a physiological way. It was known that in certain diseases the presence of Zinc had been described, but Don Carlos, from Chile doing his experiments, shows that Zinc was in physiological condition as well. This was published in 1918 in the Bulletin de la Societe de Medecine Legale de France. Also, in a review of Zinc in the Experimental Station Record of the US Department of Agriculture in 1921, Carlos Ghigliotto is mentioned in the Zn's discoveries in the human body. That is, in life it was recognized internationally, but in Chile it did not have the impact that his disciples expected (Ceppi A.: Don Carlos Ghigliotto Salas. It does not reward his teacher who always remains his disciple (Nietzsche). Chemistry and Pharmacy 1, 1.5-9 (1931)). Moreover, his findings did not have an impact only on his discipline, but on others as in Biochemistry.

His scientific contribution was not limited to the discovery of Zinc, he also studied the role of nitric acid, HgS, the presence of formic aldehyde in the breakdown of meats and their relationship to poisonings, etc.

With regard to his death, Professor Hugo Lea-Plaza says: "Despite his prestige as a teacher and the consideration that surrounded him as such and as a researcher, especially in France, he was a skeptic of himself, unfounded skepticism, the product of deep and lofty spiritual complexes, which he wanted to sublimar, ending his life on a bad day in December 1930 , when he believed that he was no longer useful to the progress of science and the University of Chile.

In short, Don Carlos left a huge legacy, both in training people and in scientific discoveries, which have not yet had in Chile the importance and dissemination they deserve".

We appreciate Prof. Wilson's input.

Directorate of Extension and Communications. March 2, 2020.