She only had a few days left before her 81st birthday. I remember once almost a year ago, on November 30, 2018, the event Talent Woman organized a tribute because of her 80th birthday and we sang happy birthday in her honor. She didn’t attend because she had a cold, but, she sent a thank-you video. She was always a very attentive person. I’m talking about Margarita Salas Falgueras, one of the most remarkable scientists in our country, if not the most. The Spanish Marie Curie, although she never liked the comparison.

Margarita Salas trabajando en su laboratorio
Margarita Salas trabajando en su laboratorio

How I met Margarita Salas

I met Margarita Salas a long time ago, when I studied Law and, at the same time, worked in the Autonoma University of Madrid as P.A. of her husband, Eladio Viñuela at the Center of Molecular Biology

Eladio Viñuela y el equipo de Investigación de la Peste Porcina Africana (VPPA)
Eladio Viñuela and the African Swine Fever Virus team
Eladio Viñuela y Margarita Salas en sus comienzos
Eladio Viñuela and Margarita Salas in their beginnings

When they started in Spain, they worked together on the study of the phage Phi29 (which involved the discovery of a new mechanism to initiate the replication of genetic material, and has served as a model for the analysis of other viruses) although Eladio gave the opportunity to Margarita to continue alone while he dedicated himself to the search for a vaccine for the African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) that plagued pig farms, especially in Extremadura, his birth place, so this made him specially interested in it

Publicación sobre el Virus de la Peste Porcina Africana (VPPA)
Publication about African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV)

This gesture meant a greater visibility and recognition for Margarita’s work, which could thus shine with her own light and become the most important scientist in our country.

Margarita Salas, a close person

There have been many, honors, prizes and awards received by Margarita Salas throughout her scientific career, but today I want to show her closest and human side, at least in my own experience working with her, because she always showed a consideration as only truly great people know how to show. That’s why her trainees, known as “los margaritos” wanted and respected her and also were aware of the privilege of working with Margarita Salas. Some of them have already taken over and run leading research centres such as Doctor María Blasco  at the CNIO, among others.

Margarita Salas y Maria Blasco
Margarita Salas and Maria Blasco

I still keep with affection an Italian silver bracelet that brought me after a congress in San Marino that gave me a lot of headaches to organize. One more sample of his kind disposition and of his enormous emotional intelligence, that surpassed even the cognitive one.

Pulsera regalo de Margarita Salas
I still keep with affection this bracelet given by Margarita

Last time I saw Martarita Salas was here, in Malaga, quite a few years ago. She came to the Provincial Cultural Centre to give a Seminar on Women, Art and Society in the XXI Century. She was surprised to see me because she wasn’t expecting to see me in Malaga (when we met, I lived in Madrid) but we were happy to chat for a while before the conference. Afterwards, I have continued to follow her career through the press and social media. I would have liked to see her again at the Talent Woman. There are people who should never die, but she certainly died as she wanted, with her lab coat on. We will miss her.

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