Six Centuries of Science in four volumes published this week illustrates an unknown history of Portugal marked by advances in science, technology and medicine, a project that deconstructs ideas that have been made around the construction of Portuguese identity.
One of the collection coordinators Science, technology and medicine in building PortugalMaria Paula Diogo emphasized that one of the drives that led to the creation of the group was to highlight the “enormous audience” of scientists, engineers, and physicians and to add their fields to “the more traditional fields: economic, political, social, institutionalized” because the scientific field “is not a fortress, a ghetto, It is something that is part of the territory of history.”
“We wanted to confront the idea that still didn’t want to disappear, even though it might sound amazing, which is the idea that there is no science, technology and medicine in Portugal. Because people think that there is only if there is Einstein, Darwin, Newton, Pasteur, whatever. Researcher Anna Simويسes, of the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Science, who works with Maria Paula Diogo, of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Nova de Lisboa, noted the overall coordination of the collection, which includes articles by more than 80 authors.
“Lighthouses” such as mathematician Pedro Nunes or doctors García de Orta and Egas Moniz – the only Portuguese Nobel laureate in the scientific field – are inevitable, but curators stress that “there are many participants in the scientific project behind them”
For María Paula Diogo and Ana Sim ،es, the “wonderful figure” who became practically “invisible” in history despite his influence is the abbot José Correia da Serra, a naturalist who lived between 1750 and 1823 who explains “the seriousness that historians quickly I think, because not much is known about him, he didn’t do anything right.”
In fact, Correia da Serra “is considered a naturalist, at the level of A [Alexander von] Humboldt, from a [Georges Cuvier]”, who was one of the founders of the Academy of Sciences and the first Portuguese ambassador to the United States, where he established his diplomatic activity and where he influenced the design of the international policy of North America, i.e. the “Neutrality Act” passed as recently as the 18th century.
With associations with Freemasonry, Correia da Serra is one of the scholars being studied in a European research project on scientific diplomacy, but in his time it ended up voting for “disappearance”.
“It may have to do with the fact that I never wrote a dissertation on botany, unlike my colleagues at the time. He chose a different strategy, wrote essays, and was closely related to the formation of societies of botanists, creating the first large community of botanists,” said Maria Paula Diogo. youth in the United States.
“There is often the idea that, apart from the heyday of discoveries, it has since been a continuous decline, that we are a backward country and we are still there and there are many battles there. From an international point of view, the role of the Portuguese in the so-called scientific revolution is not recognized,” she points out. Anna Simes.
In their work, carried out within the scope of the Inter-University Center for the History of Science and Technology (a collaboration between Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade de Lisboa), the authors recognized that “the expansion is a relevant period, but the rest is no less, it is the historical construction that gives this feeling”, sums up Maria Paula Diogo.
“Like all European countries, we also had science, technology and medicine before the expansion, the Middle Ages is not a black hole,” but the period of discovery, marked by developments focused on marine activity, “ended up creating a misconception.”
Maria Paula Diogo, for example, refers to the period of renewal, from the second half of the nineteenth century, with the governments of Fontes Pereira de Mello, which was marked by “engineers around the state apparatus” and by the construction of roads – iron in Portugal, where “scientific and technological aspects deserve two lines In some histories of Portugal, which produced an “effect that almost erases what happened after the expansion.”
In the history of science in Portugal, it is necessary to “demystify Manichaean and highly reductionist ideas,” argued Ana Simويسes, citing an example of what happened during the Estado Novo.
“It makes no sense to think that Estado Novo, being a dictatorship, has no science and, therefore, uncritically adopts the idea that this rural point of view has no corresponding point of view. Thirteen very important state laboratories have been set up, says the researcher.
Maria Paula Diogo added that science, technology, and medicine are “never neutral” and that “scientists participate in political agendas without that benign idea of universal knowledge”.
On the one hand, “there are no scientists who did not know they were in Estado Novo” and on the other hand, “regimes use science, technology, and medicine in their agendas, sometimes creating very harsh situations in society and the scientific community, such as the major purges in universities during the Estado Novo or sending scholars who were less skilled in the system to the then Portuguese colonies.”
Maria Paula Diogo asserted: “Indeed, science, technology and medicine have always been too important for political power to not use it, and it is absurd to think that any system puts it aside.”
The collection, edited by Tinta da China, is divided into volumes New Horizons (15th to 17th century)And the Reason and progress (18th century)And the Identity and “civilizational message” (19th century) e Innovation and Challenge (20th Century).
The collection spans the 21st century, from after the 25th of April to the changes introduced by Science Minister Jose Mariano Gago in the 1990s, to the “current relationship between scientific research and companies”.
More than just unique events, said Maria Paula Diogo, Portugal’s scientific, technological and medical history can be seen organized into “large time blocks representing the rhythm of centuries” in dialogue with the rest of Europe.
The collection will be presented on July 13 at the Aula Magna of the University of Lisbon.
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