Country Listing

Brazil Table of Contents


Imperial Science

The "imperial science" period lasted from 1808, when the seat of the Portuguese crown moved to Rio de Janeiro because of the Napoleonic Wars, until the beginning of the republican period in 1889. The first higher education schools--a military academy in Rio de Janeiro, two medical schools, and two law schools--were created in the first years of the "imperial science" period, and a few scientific institutions started to appear. The search for new mineral riches and the effort to adapt agricultural products known in Europe and other regions to Brazil led to the creation of the first botanical gardens and mineralogical collections.

Brazil became independent formally in 1822 and enjoyed a period of political stability between 1840 and 1889, during the reign of Emperor Pedro II (1840-89). New scientific institutions were created in this post-independence period, such as the Museum of Natural History, the Astronomical Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, and the Imperial Geological Commission. Foreign scientists were invited to head these institutions, and Pedro II himself was very active not only in creating Brazilian institutions but also in supporting science in Europe. The kind of science being developed in Brazil in those years, although similar to that being developed in Europe, was not subject to the same standards of quality as its European model. The main economic activity in Brazil was the production of coffee for the international market, based on slave labor. After the 1850s, slave labor was replaced gradually by European and Japanese immigrants, and a domestic market for food, textiles, and other basic products started to develop.

Applied Science in Agriculture and Health

The "applied science in agriculture and health" period covers the first decades of the republic, from 1889 to the mid-1930s. As a republic, Brazil became more decentralized. The country's economic pole shifted gradually to São Paulo State--the center of coffee production and the destination of massive European immigration, second only to Buenos Aires in Latin America. Most of the new higher education and research institutions in those years were created in the city of São Paulo. They addressed the two main areas of concern in those years: public health, particularly the sanitation of the country's main port cities, Santos and Rio de Janeiro; and agricultural research. The main São Paulo State institutions from those years were the Agronomic Institute of Campinas (Instituto Agronômico de Campinas), the Biological Institute for Animal Protection (Instituto Biológico de Defesa Animal), the Butantan Institute (Instituto Butantan) for snake-venom research, the Geological Commission of São Paulo State (Comissão Geológica do Estado de São Paulo), and the Vaccine Institute (Instituto Vacinogênico). Also during this period, the scientific professions expanded and tried to find their place in the modernization of Brazilian society.

The most significant scientific institution in this period, however, was the Manguinhos Institute (Instituto Manguinhos), now the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz) in Rio de Janeiro. This institute played a central role in the control of tropical diseases, such as yellow fever, malaria, and parasitic diseases. It developed important research lines in zoological fields such as helminthology (worms) and entomology (insects), and its researchers were the first to identify the full etiology of Chagas' disease. The Manguinhos Institute provided the link between Brazilian researchers and the international scientific community. Most of Brazil's leading scientists in human biology, public health, and related fields were trained there. The Manguinhos Institute's success is attributed to the ability of its leadership to combine a clear sense of short-term objectives with a commitment to the values of scholarship and research.

Data as of April 1997