In 2014, Alejandro Zaffaroni, one of the inventors of the birth control pill, died. Born in Montevideo in 1923, he graduated from the University of Montevideo. As both his parents were dead, he decided to take a cargo ship to New York after receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in the USA.
Zaffaroni was part of a Mexican team which created the Pill. He also played a similarly significant role in the development of the nicotine patch, the DNA chip and corticosteroids. According to his New York Times obituary he was one of the most influential biotech entrepreneurs ever. The Scientist called him a “biotech superstar“.
The creator of tens of high tech bio companies and a researcher in his own right, Zaffaroni was born and educated in Montevideo. Courtesy: Zaffaroni Foundation
Uruguay has a highly-educated population by standards anywhere
This doesn’t surprise me. Though Uruguayans complain about their education system today (show me a country where people don’t lament falling standards), free primary school education has been compulsory since 1876 (link in Spanish to the Uruguayan Education Reform of 1876).
Even today the public university (the Universidad de la República) is free.
And Uruguay is the first country in the world to completely roll out the One Laptop Per Child initiative since 2006. Every child in state-run education in both primary and secondary school has a XO laptop.
I actually attend the Montevideo clinic where mammograms were first invented. It’s in the city centre about 5 minutes drive from my house.
The clinic’s founder Raul Leborgne, a radiologist from Montevideo, devised an apparatus in 1949 that would squeeze a patient’s breast to hold it flat while an x-ray was taken. He reported his findings in a landmark publication in 1951. His insight and discovery has been used to save over 1.6 million lives.
Medical Discovery News says that “Given that almost ten percent of all women get breast cancer, you could argue the mammogram is among the most important techniques of the last century in advancing women’s health.”
More reasons to love Uruguay… especially if you are a woman.
Visitors to Uruguay may soon be able to buy cannabis. The motivation, says the govt, is to remove ‘inequality’ between tourists and citizens.
Der Spiegel ranked Uruguay’s pandemic response #11 in the world. So what have I been grateful for every day of the pandemic?
Uruguay has embraced renewable energy for economic reasons and ranks in the world’s top twenty green leaders, according to MIT.
The museum, in Montevideo, honours the survivors of the Andes plane crash. Yes, one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century is Uruguayan.
40% of Roman Catholics live in Latin America but as usual Uruguay does its own thing. There’s complete separation of church and state for almost 100 years.
More international footballing titles, two World Cups, the first soccer sex symbol and the best football anthem. Not bad for a nation of 3 million, eh?
Montevideo – the capital of the friendliest country in South America. And it’s Uruguay’s version of ‘Pride’–known as the Diversity March–this Friday!
José ‘Pepe’ Mujica was dubbed “the world’s poorest president” for his modest lifestyle and is the subject of a new film by Emir Kusturica.
World famous for soccer, turns out Uruguay has the #2 rugby team in South America. Guru’Guay investigates and is on the BBC during the Rugby World Cup.
Not only does Uruguay have Latin America’s first ‘earthship’ school, but soon it’ll have the first ecological bioconstruction hotel in historic Colonia.
When he became famous in the 1960s Alfredo Zitarrosa’s record sales rivalled The Beatles’ in Montevideo. He took Uruguayan folklore music and made it cool.
Two old ladies walk in to a cafe, then one makes a confession. This story feels so Uruguayan to me that I’m still mulling over all the reasons why.