I’ve emphasized in these articles that very few written documents are known that mention Rosendo Rubi, and most of these are very brief (1-3 sentences) or appear to paraphrase Ruben Dario’s 1908 statements [++]. In fact, until recently I was not aware of any mention of him outside Nicaraguan or Hispanic documents, except for the listing of his name as Second Secretary of Nicaragua’s Commission to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. So it was exciting to find several months ago two previously unknown or unrecognized articles focusing exclusively on him. These are significant findings, even if relatively short.
Perhaps the most important article is an obituary published in The New York Times on January 8, 1942[RR9]:
DR. ROENDO RUBI [name mispelled]. Special Cable to The New York Times.
MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Jan. 7 — Dr. Roendo Rubi, leading physicist of Nicaragua, died yesterday at the age of 80. He was a pioneer in the field of wireless telegraphy and was sent to the St. Louis Exposition by President General Jose Santos Zelaya to demonstrate his experiments. He was called the Nicaraguan Marconi. Dr. Rubi was Professor of Physics for many years at the University of Leon.
Admittedly, this is a brief obituary. However, it is remarkable that the New York Times would consider it news worthy to print an obituary for someone from a small country while World War II occupied the center stage of news in the U.S. and elsewhere. It implies that he was still a somewhat recognized figure in the U.S. Nevertheless, I suspect the text was composed in Nicaragua (“Special Cable to The New York Times”) and printed with little editing, so it is likely to reflect the views of Rosendo Rubi in Nicaragua rather than in New York.
The second article[RR10] is part of a collection of brief biographies of Nicaraguan physicians from the past (already deceased), published in Leon in 1950 by Carlos Berrios Delgadillo, a well known doctor from Leon. I am providing a scanned image of the original biographic note on Rosendo Rubi. Here’s a translation (thanks to my cousin, Emilio Rubi):
ROSENDO RUBI. He lived the modest and simple life of his laboratory. A graduate of our Centennial University, not only did he carry out his profession with dexterity and selflessness, but filled with fervent longing for science, became an effective investigator, and attained, after patient labor, a discovery of the principles of wireless telephony.
He traveled to the United States of North America, taking to the Exposition of 1904 of St. Louis in Missouri, the invention that earned him, having leapt across the borders of nations, the right to figure among the sages of the Illustrated Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy.
Of modest temperament, never did his spirit feel the vanity of triumph. Often would we see him stroll the streets of our León, his bearing ever serene however unsteadily due to his years, only to arrive evening after evening to lecture his Medical Physics class in the Faculty of Medicine.
He died as all wise men do, without economic resources worthy of mention, but with the serenity merited by the accomplished task, and the satisfaction of having given luster to his Homeland.
Finally, I’d like to restate (in translation, again thanks to Emilio Rubi) what’s shown in the plaque found on Rosendo Rubi’s old house in Leon, in honor of his experiments with radio[RR7]:
It was in this house that the first experiment in radiotelephony was conducted, by the learned Doctor Rosendo Rubi, in the presence of the first magistrate of the nation, General J.S. Zelaya, in the year 1902. In memory of this most great event, this city consecrates this commemorative plaque to her eminent son.
What do we learn from these written records? Not much that we didn’t already know from our oral history as told by family and Nicaraguans who know about Rosendo Rubi. However, we get confirmation from two different sources that he was sent to the 1904 St. Louis Exposition with the specific intent of presenting his radio invention. The NYT obituary states that he worked on “wireless telegraphy”, but all evidence, including the two other statements presented here, shows that his work focused instead on wireless “telephony” (transmission of voice, not just Morse code signals). The obituary and the Berrios-Delgadillo biography both confirm the well-known fact that he taught “medical physics” at the university in Leon. Finally, it’s somewhat remarkable that the New York Times would sign off on the title “the Nicaraguan Marconi”, though I don’t know if they exercised any editorial oversight on obituaries. The Leon plaque is the only reference I am aware of that gives a specific date (1902) to his first successful experiments, before the St. Louis Exposition.
On a more personal note, the NYT obituary states that Rosendo Rubi was 80 years old when he died — 1942, according to the publication date. This is the most concrete reference to his timeline and birth date I’ve seen, implying he was born around 1862. Unfortunately, the year of his death inscribed on his tombstone in Leon is 1940, so we now have a very odd disagreement about what year he died, though there’s full agreement on the day (6th of January). Regardless, this evidence makes it clear that he was actually a bit older than Luis H. Debayle and Ruben Dario, and not a younger “disciple” of Debayle as has been implied elsewhere.
I’d like to thank Dr. Roberto Buitrago-Rubi (a distant relative of our family and of Rosendo Rubi) for first pointing me to the Berrios-Delgadillo biography; to my cousin Emilio Rubi for his translations to English; and to my brother-in-law, Avil Ramirez, and my mom, for identifying and sending me an original edition of the 1950 Berrios-Delgadillo collection.
++ I plan to write an article about the existing, Spanish language references to Rosendo Rubi and the apparent direct lineage of most of them to Ruben Dario’s 1908 statement[RR3].