José Echegaray y Eizaguirre was born in Madrid, Spain, on April 19, 1832, to a middle-class family of Basque ancestry. When he was an infant, his father moved the family to Murcia, where Echegaray lived the first fourteen years of his life. The boy received a superior education in Murcia, excelling in mathematics and the sciences. In 1846, he returned to Madrid to enter the School of Engineering, where he was graduated first in his class with a degree in civil engineering. Immediately after graduation, he was hired by the Department of Public Works as an engineer in the building of roads in Almería and Granada. Not satisfied with practical work of this kind, Echegaray returned to Madrid in 1858 to become a professor of calculus at his alma mater, a position he held until the Revolution of 1868. Meanwhile, he perfected his knowledge of mathematics and physics and became the most eminent man in Spain in those disciplines. In 1866, at the young age of thirty-four, he was elected to the Academy of Exact Sciences of Madrid.
His second career as a politician and statesman began in 1868 when political conspiracy ended the rule of Isabel II. Echegaray, who had written a few articles criticizing Isabel’s economic policies, was appointed director of public works and secretary of commerce in 1868. A year later, he was elected deputy to parliament, and, at various times, he held the important posts of secretary of the interior and of the treasury. Echegaray’s...
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