Juan y Santacilia, Jorge (1713–1773)

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Juan y Santacilia, Jorge (1713–1773)

Jorge Juan y Santacilia (b. 5 January 1713; d. 5 July 1773), Spanish scientist. Born in Novelda, near Alicante, Juan was orphaned at three but nevertheless received a first-rate education, first in Malta, then at the prestigious new Spanish naval academy (Guardia Marina) in Cádiz, and finally with the Spanish fleet plying the Mediterranean (1730–1734). In 1734 Philip V chose him and Antonio de Ulloa, another brilliant young naval officer, to join the French scientists Louis Godin and Charles Marie la Condamine on an expedition to the Indies to measure the exact length of a degree on the equator.

Finally reaching Quito in May 1736, the group immediately began their measurements, with Juan assigned to the ostensible leader of the expedition, Louis Godin, with whom he made observations at thirty-two sites. Juan's stay in Ecuador was not without controversy, however. Both he and Ulloa became embroiled with the president of the Audiencia of Quito and also with the French in a protocol dispute over whose names and royal coat of arms were to be placed on the pillars erected on the equator.

Called to Lima early in the War of Jenkins's Ear, the two officers advised the viceroy on military and naval matters before returning to Quito in January 1744 to make their own scientific observations. Late in October they left for Spain, where they began writing a four-volume descriptive work on their travels, Relación histórica del viage a la América meridional (Historical Report on the Voyage to America), published in 1748. In 1749 they completed a secret report for crown officials on conditions in the Indies.

Juan never returned to the Indies. After that last assignment, he became a royal troubleshooter in his native country, where he improved ventilation in the mercury mines at Almadén, strengthened the sea walls at Cartagena, built a new arsenal at El Ferrol, and served as ambassador to Morocco, among other duties. Spending his last days in Madrid as head of the Royal Seminary of Nobles, Juan was noted for his deep-seated attachment to Enlightenment ideas, confirmed by the posthumous publication of his book on astronomy in 1774.

See alsoTravel Literature; War of Jenkins's Ear (1739–1748).


John J. Tepaske and Besse Clement, eds. and trans., Discourse and Political Reflections on the Kingdoms of Peru … (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Orozco Acuaviva, Antonio. Los cirujanos navales de la "Asamblea Amistosa Literaria" de Jorge Juan. Cádiz, Spain: Fundación Uriach 1838, 2000.

Soler Pascual, Emilio. Viajes de Jorje Juan y Santacilia: ciencia y política en la España del siglo XVIII. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 2002.

                                           John Jay TePaske

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