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Those who remember history build a better future: the origins of ICMAB

A letter of support to Prof. Heribert Barrera, after the City Council of Barcelona withdrew his City Gold Medal this year 2020, awarded to him posthumously in 2012. 

23 December 2020
Heribert Barrera | Jordi Play - Arxiu EL TEMPS
Heribert Barrera | Jordi Play - Arxiu EL TEMPS

This year 2020, the Barcelona City Gold Medal was withdrawn from Prof. Heribert Barrera, as approved by the Barcelona City Council in September 2020. Barrera was the first president of the ICMAB Board of Trustees after serving as the first President of the Parliament of Catalonia of the recovered Generalitat after the dictatorship. The current and past Directors of ICMAB and many of the researchers who knew Prof. Barrera deplore this initiative and are morally obliged to remember the facts that correspond to the ICMAB origins, in order to better understand the present and to be able to build a better future.

Prof. Heribert Barrera was appointed President of the Board of Trustees of ICMAB in 1990, being its first president. The Board of Trustees was the promoting and governing body of the center for many years. It included representatives of all the institutions that promoted the center, the Generalitat de Catalunya, the CSIC and the three Catalan universities (UB, UAB, UPC). The unanimous election of Prof. Barrera as president was based on his academic prestige acquired as Professor of Chemistry at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (during that time, he had been professor and supervisor of the doctoral thesis of Prof. Francesc Teixidor and also professor of Prof. Clara Viñas, ICMAB researchers) and, previously, at the University of Montpellier (France) during the long years of Franco's dictatorship. The testimony of the researchers who worked with him is that of a person of great rigor and an extensive scientific and humanist culture that definitely influenced their training very positively. The Board of Trustees of ICMAB also valued, evidently, his profile and experience as a political negotiator and his institutional authority. The president of the CSIC at that time, Prof. Emilio Muñoz (1988-1991) did not doubt in any case that this election would be a good stimulus in the new initiative of creating a research center that had to acquire international prestige in the period in which our country was opening back to the European scenario.

As the first Director and founder of ICMAB, Prof. Carles Miravitlles, remembers, Prof. Barrera firmly and positively supervised the center in order to achieve an effective commitment from the different institutions, including the Generalitat, through the Industry and Energy Department, represented by its General Director, Mr. Miquel Puig. These were years of scientific renaissance in which new generations of researchers had the mission to open the country to the world, all rooted in those antecedents that were worthy of a certain prestige. The support of the Board of Trustees played a decisive role, in parallel to the international scientific committee of the 4 Institutes of materials science created simultaneously by the CSIC (in Madrid, Sevilla, Zaragoza and Barcelona).

Those were years of hope for a better future, everything was still to be done and everything was possible. Institutional cooperation was opening up new frameworks and had to be efficient in order to make up for the time lost. Those years were the seed of the research of excellence that has now reached the ICMAB. For these reasons, we should respect the historical memory of those who contributed to make it possible, and among them is Prof. Heribert Barrera, who we believe deserves to be kept in our memory as a benefactor of the ICMAB and to claim he should not be subject to interested and extemporaneous political manipulations. We owe it to ourselves. 

As Prof. Miravitlles remembers, the independent voice and the own thought of Prof. Barrera was never absent, and he even presided the inauguration ceremony of the ICMAB building in 1991 with the presence of King Juan Carlos I, to whom in that historical environment, did not have any consideration to say him that he would have been a good President of the Catalan Republic! Facts from the past that are good to know in order to reflect on how to build a better future.

Prof. Carles Miravitlles and Prof. Xavier Obradors
Directors of ICMAB

Download the letter in CAT, ESP, ENG

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