Antonio Luna was a Filipino scientist and soldier who lived in the late 19th century. His name is recognized primarily as the hot-tempered general who fought against the United States in the Spanish-American War and was eventually assassinated by his own soldiers, but he was also widely recognized in the scientific community for his research of contagious diseases. His efforts to free the Philippines from American rule and his pharmaceutical and environmental science findings both left their mark on his country.
Antonio Luna: Early Life
Understanding Luna's later life and accomplishments can be helped by learning about his early life and his education:
- The youngest of seven children, Luna was born in Binondo, the commercial district of Manila, on October 29, 1866.
- He possessed strong skills in chemistry and other sciences, and in 1881 earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila.
- His college Jesuit teachers recognized his aptitude in chemistry, and encouraged him to study it further. He did study it, along with literature, at the University of Santo Tomas, where his essay entitled “Dos Cuerpos Fundamentales de la Quimica” (“Two Fundamental Bodies of Chemistry”) won first prize in a competition.
- At the University of Santo Tomas, Luna also studied music, military science, and marksmanship.
Growing Up and Moving Around
In 1886 Luna moved to Madrid, where he earned a Licentiate in Pharmacy. He went on to earn a Doctorate in Pharmacy in 1890, and his doctoral examiners said he did extremely well.
- His 1893 doctoral thesis on malaria, entitled “El Hematozoario del Paludismo,” was favorably recognized by both physicians and medical scientists.
- After completing his doctorate, Luna moved on to Paris, where he researched bacteriology and histology at the Pasteur Institute, and later to Belgium, where he studied medical chemistry.
Studies and Grants
After being given a grant for research in 1894 from the Spanish government, Luna moved back to his home of Manila. The grant was to be used to study tropical and communicable diseases.
- Antonio took a post as the Chemist Expert of the Municipal Laboratory of Manila, where he was the first person to conduct environmental science studies. These studies included researching the contents of several sources of water, which he found to be unfit to drink.
- He also was the first person to conduct a study on Philippine forensic science, studying human blood and how it could be used as evidence when investigating crimes.
Fencing, Revolution and Politics
While juggling all his scientific research, Luna also opened a fencing club in Manila, and this is when his focus shifted.
- He learned about the secret societies that existed in hopes of starting a Philippine revolution to gain independence from Spain. One such society was called the Katipunan, which had begun in 1892.
- Though he did not think the Filipinos were prepared to stage an actual revolution, his name became linked with the Katipunan, an anti-Spanish revolutionary society. When the Katipunan was discovered in 1896, Luna and his brother Juan were arrested and put in jail in Fort Santiago.
- Juan was later released, but Antonio was exiled to Spain in 1897 and put in prison in Madrid. Juan worked to have his brother released. However, his release was granted with the condition that Antonio not leave Spain, by which he did not abide.
- During his time in prison he had decided to join the revolution and, after studying military science and strategy in several European cities, he returned to the Philippines in July 1898.
Moving Up in the Military
Luna quickly rose up the military ranks and was made a general.
- He started a military academy and became known as a strict disciplinarian, which made him rather unpopular among the soldiers he trained.
- He began a newspaper that was published daily with the goal of uniting the Filipino people around the idea of becoming an independent nation. The paper was a huge success.
December of 1898 brought the Treaty of Paris, in which Spain turned control of the Philippines over to the United States. The battles that followed between the Philippine and American armies were horrific. Insubordination and confusion among Filipino troops eventually caused Luna to resign as general, though three weeks later he returned to the army.
On June 5, 1899, he was assassinated by physical force and stabbing by his own people - Filipino soldiers whom Luna had either insulted, arrested, or disarmed for insubordination. Antonio Luna is known as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Filipino general.