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Emiliano Aguirre was born in a special year for Human Paleontology, the year 1925, because in that year the discovery by Raymond Dart of the Taung Child was published in the journal Nature, a finding that had occurred at the end of the previous year. The Taung Child was the first Australopithecus to be discovered, and although it took time to be recognized as our ancestor, it changed everything. He and two other great paleontropologists born in the same year of 1925 formed the ‘Trio of the Taung Child’, as the South African Philip Tobias, the North American Francis Clark Howell and the Spanish Emiliano Aguirre proudly proclaimed. And the truth is that the three of them admired each other and did great things in the field of human evolution. Emiliano Aguirre was the last to die, and with him an unforgettable generation of scientists and explorers disappeared, from a time when paleontology was truly an outdoor adventure. Those of us who have reached the end of that heroic era can imagine what it was like to search for fossils in Africa… or in post-war Spain.

This anecdote is worth to highlight the idea that Emiliano was an internationally respected scientist, who was related to the great figures of the world Human Paleontology. Aguirre was also one of the three coordinators of a very important book published in Spain in 1966 and entitled ‘Evolution’. This volume constitutes a milestone in Spanish science, because it represented an update of the advances in evolutionary theory that had occurred outside our country after the civil war. Spain had been isolated scientifically as much or more than in the cultural and the theory of evolution was not exactly to the liking of the authorities of the regime.

There is not enough space here to talk about his scientific work in Africa and Spain and the scientific achievements in Atapuerca. Fortunately, these days they are being remembered and commented on in all the media by the many disciples that Emiliano leaves after passing through Spanish science. Now I would like to make a more personal portrait of how I saw it in my university years and how I have always continued to see it. Emiliano was a person with enormous personal magnetism, an impressive voice and a slender and distinguished figure. He was the class and the category in person, both in a tie and suit in the office and in digging clothes.

With an impeccable humanist and scientific training, Emiliano spoke classical languages ​​as well as modern languages, and was an excellent draftsman and painter. At the same time, he was approachable and patient with the students and with anyone who approached him with questions. He was a humble sage, and I never saw him boast of his vast knowledge and achievements.

Now, in retrospect, I realize that I always wanted to be like him.

juan luis arsuaga paleontologist

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