On July 5, 1846 Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas was born in Pamplona-Iruñea. In later life, he came to be regarded as a champion of modernizing mathematics in the Spanish state according to the latest developments in Europe and beyond.
After García de Galdeano’s father was killed while on active service in the Spanish military, he was raised by his maternal grandfather José Yanguas y Miranda (1782-1863), a historian, jurist, and well-known figure in Navarrese political life in the first half of the nineteenth century, promoting a kind of pro-foral liberalism. The young García de Galdeano was thus raised in a learning environment receptive to new ideas. In 1871 he obtained his doctorate and thereafter began a lengthy professional journey teaching math at several high schools throughout the Spanish state as well as promoting the so-called free institutes (experimental secular high schools that emphasized liberal values such as civic responsibility and modernization in its various guises). At the same time, he published voraciously with the aim of introducing the latest European mathematical currents into the peninsula.
Finally, in 1889 he obtained a tenured professorship in analytical geometry at his alma mater, the University of Zaragoza, where he worked until his retirement in 1918. Once established at the university level, he began lobbying to provide more adequate networks and platforms for sharing and disseminating mathematical knowledge. In 1891 he founded El Progreso Matemático (Mathematical Progress), the first strictly mathematical journal published in Spain; and he was the first mathematician in the state to begin attending international conferences on a regular basis. Most significantly, García de Galdeano was present at the famous 1900 speech of influential German mathematician David Hilbert at the Sorbonne in Paris, in which he posed a set of problems that to a large extent came to define the direction of the discipline through the twentieth century. Moreover, he was one of the main figures behind the creation of the Spanish Mathematics Society in 1911, and became its president in 1916.
He died in Zaragoza in 1924, having played a critical role in modernizing the study of mathematics in the peninsula.