Luis F. Alvarez
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|Luis F. Alvarez|
|Born||Luis Fernández Alvarez
January 4, 1853
La Puerta, Salas, Asturias, Spain
|Died||May 24, 1937(aged 84)|
|Spouse||Clementina Schutze (m. 1878)|
Fernández (his middle name) was actually his principal surname (his father's surname). However he is nowadays better known by his mother's surname (since in the English-speaking world the last name is the principal surname, contrary to the naming system in Spain), and his American-born children got his last surname for that reason.
Álvarez was born in a small village called La Puerta, of the municipality of Salas. His father was Eugenio Fernández, who was in charge of the business and palace affairs in Madrid of don Francisco de Paula, one of the royal princes. He was orphaned at an early age: his mother died when he was three, and he lost his father at the age of seven. When he was 13, one of his brothers took him to Havana where he secured a good education. He learned to speak English fluently.
In 1878, he married Clementina Schutze and in 1887 graduated from Cooper Medical College (now Stanford University) with a medical degree. After practising in San Francisco, he traveled to Hawaii as physician on the SS Australia. In Honolulu, he was asked by the government to stay and become a government physician. Álvarez quickly learned to speak the Hawaiian language.
In 1895, Álvarez resigned his position in Waialua to prepare himself for work as Superintendent of a new experimental hospital for the treatment of leprosy which was to be established in Kalihi, a suburb of Honolulu. In order to learn research bacteriology, Álvarez went — at his own expense — for six months of intensive study at Johns Hopkins University.
On his return, he developed a method for the better diagnosis of macular leprosy. With a small mouse-tooth forceps he would lift up a little piece of skin, snip it off with scissors, grind it into a fluid in a small glass mortar, and then stain the fluid for Hansen's bacilli. This method or a modification of it has been used ever since. Álvarez developed a serum by injecting Hansen's bacilli into horses. He used this on a number of Hansen's disease patients with encouraging results.
His grandson and great-grandson have also become well known: Luis Walter Alvarez, a physicist and Nobel Prize winner; and Walter Alvarez, Professor of Geology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Álvarez was a keen student of medicine throughout his entire life, and owned a large practice up until his death from pneumonia at the age of 84.