A Space for Science - The Development of the Scientific Community in Brazil
The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991
THE ROOTS OF SCIENTIFIC TRADITIONS
From Agronomy to Genetics
Out of Manguinhos: The New Institutes of Biological Research
Chemistry: Limits and Possibilities of the German Model
Gleb Wataghin and Cosmic Ray Physics
The War Effort
Most of the contemporary science in Brazil has its roots in the scientific traditions
and institutions established and strengthened in the transition years of the 1930s.
Some of them, like those in the biological sciences, grew out of applied research
institutes of the previous years; others, like those in modern physics, started
with the Universidade de São Paulo. As a rule, only those fields that could he
organized academically survived the 1930s to come alive in the 1950s, 1960s, and
later years. Those that did not - like the earth sciences or technological research
- had to wait for new beginnings several decades later. In this chapter I reconstruct
in some detail the path followed by some of these traditions and show how they
helped to consolidate the foundations on which Brazilian science was supposed
From Agronomy to Genetics
Agricultural research began in Brazil (if we disregard the old botanical gardens)
with the creation of the Estação Agronômica de Campinas, which was to study tropical
plants under the direction of the Austrian chemist F W. Dafert.(1)
Campinas was in those years at the heart of coffee country, but neither the inhabitants
of that region nor Brazil's minister of agriculture, who created the Estação Agronômica,
were very appreciative of Dafert's studies on coffee fertilization, and in 1890
he was dismissed, being reinstated some time later thanks to the intervention
of another foreign scientist, Orville Derby, head of São Paulo's Comissão Geográfica
e Geológica.(2) The station's name changed to Instituto Agronômico
de Campinas, and it came under state jurisdiction in 1892; in 1907 Dafert was
finally removed after a failed attempt to transform the Instituto Agronômico into
a purely practical institution concerned with solving short-term agricultural
problems and operating as a lucrative business.(3)
The Instituto Agronômico thus entered the 1920s removed from the first goals laid
out by Dafert, as illustrated by its reduced staff: one head agronomist, two gardeners,
and some laborers. In 1927 Teodureto de Camargo undertook a reform that was basic
in attempting to return to its original philosophy: the study of agricultural
problems was to he carried out first in laboratories and experimental fields and
later at the institute's various substations located around the state; only at
a third moment would the results be released. By the 1930s the Instituto Agronômico
was operating again at full steam, mainly because its specialists had all been
designated full-time workers in 1929. Its studies had repercussions in the academic
world and were important in improving São Paulo's agriculture. With coffee in
a period of crisis caused by overproduction and international recession, the institute
provided local farmers with cotton seeds and other crops.
The 1930s were also an important decade for the Escola Superior de Agricultura
Luiz de Queiroz, created in 1901 as the Escola Agrícola de Piracicaba under São
Paulo's state secretary of agriculture.(4) The
goal was to provide agricultural education at all levels, from primary schools
to graduate studies, in the same educational and research establishment, thus
providing continuity and coherence in the training of specialists.(5)
The quality of the work done by the Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz
in basic and applied science within the field of agriculture is illustrated by
its pioneer decision to teach genetics in 1918 as part of the agriculture class
led by Carlos Teixeira Mendes and as part of the zootechnics class led by Otávio
Domingues. It was the first time that this new subject was taught in Brazil.
Only in 1928, however, was genetics used systematically by the Instituto Agronômico
de Campinas for the improvement of products like coffee, corn, and tobacco or
for the adaptation of others, like wheat and barley, to the Brazilian environment.
In 1932 C. A. Krug was sent by the Instituto Agronômico to Cornell University
to specialize in genetics, cytogenetics, and the improvement of plants. He returned
to Brazil by the end of 1932 and organized a research group to work in the improvement
of coffee and corn. A chair of genetics was introduced in the next year with the
purpose of training specialists in the technology of plant improvement.
The Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz was to follow a different approach
by inviting Friedrich Gustav Brieger to organize its department of genetics. Born
in 1900, Brieger received a doctorate in botany from the University of Breslau
in 1921, and in the next few years he worked at the universities of Munich, Berlin,
and Vienna. In 1924 he received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation and
worked for two years at Harvard with Edward M. East, whom he considered his strongest
influence. From Harvard he became a researcher at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut,
where he worked with Karl E. Correns, known for the rediscovery of Mendel's laws.
In 1933 he left Germany for England, where he worked at the John Innes Institute
until being invited to organize the genetics department of the Escola Luiz de
Queiroz. Encouraged by opinions of other Europeans who were also coming to São
Paulo at the time, he decided to embark on his "tropical adventure," as he himself
Brieger's achievements should be credited to his academic qualifications and to
his ability to work with people who, although not scientists themselves, were
engaged in the creation of a new academic mentality in São Paulo. He stressed
the role of José Melo Morais, director of the school upon his arrival.(7) There was also André Dreyfus, more an intellectual
and self-taught man than a researcher, who would play a central role in the introduction
of modern genetics at the Universidade de São Paulo.(8)
Brieger, Krug, and Dreyfus made a scientific community in miniature and set themselves
to the task of not only doing research but, mostly, training disciples and creating
a scientific tradition. While Krug worked mostly with applied genetics with established
methodologies, Brieger was most interested in coming up with new approaches. His
first work in Brazil was with corn and lettuce. In his studies of corn he was
the first to utilize the genetic analysis of populations, instead of hybridization,
as a technique for species improvement. To do that he had to make use of sophisticated
mathematical models, and his insistence on the superiority of this approach to
the traditional one led to a conflict with Krug and the end of their collaboration.
His work with lettuces led to the refutation of old teachings that were taken
as scientific truths.(9)
In 1938 Dreyfus began work full-time at the department of general biology of the
Faculdade de Filosofia. Both the old Instituto Agronômico and the Escola Luiz
de Queiroz had been incorporated into the new university, and Krug and Brieger
remained where they were outside the city of São Paulo. At the Faculdade de Filosofia,
Dreyfus and three assistants - Martha Brener, Crodowaldo Pavan, and Rosina de
Barrosstrove to improve the quality of their work. A real change came, however,
only a few years later, with the arrival of Theodosius Dobzhansky. Dobzhansky
arrived in Brazil in 1943 with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1936
he had published a book that was widely regarded as one of the most important
contributions to genetics since Darwin. He had applied for a grant to go to Central
America and was persuaded by Harry Miller, an adviser to the Rockefeller Foundation
well acquainted with Brazil, to come to São Paulo. He is remembered as extremely
energetic, and he changed the sedated rhythm of the Brazilians with his constant
requests for field trips, grants, and equipment. Dreyfus not only did not compete
with him, but became Dobzhansky's main supporter and defender.(10)
In São Paulo, Dobzhansky developed a research line on the population genetics
of the drosophila that received quick international recognition. Later, several
of his students and assistants went on to complete their education in the United
States. These formed a network of genetics specialists-working not only in São
Paulo but in Porto Alegre, Brasilia, and Parana-in the fields of genetics of human
populations, cytogenetics, and medical genetics. Students of Brieger stayed closer
to agricultural research and developed studies in the genetics of bees and fungi.
Out of Manguinhos: The New Institutes of Biological
A parallel development was the 1927 creation of the Instituto Biológico de Defesa
Agrícola e Animal de São Paulo (Biological Institute for the Protection of Agriculture
and Animal Husbandry) to replace an old commission for the study and eradication
of coffee borer, a plague of which was threatening the state's main agricultural
product. The new institute was a direct outgrowth of the research traditions of
the Instituto Manguinhos in Rio de Janeiro. Its first director, Artur Neiva, worked
with Oswaldo Cruz in the first sanitary campaigns and headed the fieldwork in
the fight against malaria in different regions.(11)
The new institute started with mandates to do applied and basic research, to promote
protective measures for the state's agricultural products, to teach their proper
use, and to produce serum and inoculations against animal diseases. The staff
included agronomists, veterinarians, medical doctors, biologists, and chemists
who were organized in two divisions, one dealing with plants, headed by Adalberto
de Queiroz Teles, and the other dealing with animals, headed by Henrique de Rocha
Lima.(12) The institute recruited, among others, the first
three graduates of Manguinhos' "curso de aplicaçao" in the year of its foundation:
Otto Bier, José Reis, and Adolfo Martins Penha. Its eight sections were supposed
to be in constant contact with each other, sharing a good library and technical
services. From the onset the idea was that applied and basic research should coexist
in harmony, as it did in Manguinhos in its best years.(13)
Otto Bier characterized the institute at its beginnings as marked by "a critical
mass of people interested in the same goal, namely to carry on with serious scientific
work silently without any concern with self promotion and with a strong sense
of continuity."(14) The institutional culture
assumed that science was essential for handling practical problems, and agronomists
and veterinarians participated in scientific meetings while scientists usually
went into the field.
In 1932 Neiva left the institute and was replaced by Henrique Rocha Lima, known
for his German education.(15) From the beginning,
a natural division of labor was established between Neiva and Rocha Lima-the first
more concerned with the external side of the institute (fund-raising, political
contacts, sanitary campaigns) and the second as close as possible to the daily
technical and scientific activities. When Neiva left, the institute had already
established some of its main features as a serious scientific institution: full-time
work for its researchers, interdisciplinary work, an excellent library, good technical
support (photography, drawing, glass-making, publications), and two periodicals,
the Arquivos do Instituto Biológico and O Biológico.
The tone of the institute appeared in its weekly scientific meetings. On Tuesdays
internal meetings consisted of presentations and discussion of scientific articles
in the recent literature led each week by a different researcher. On Fridays,
lectures, often given by invited guests, covered broader scientific, literary,
or artistic subjects and were open to the public. They soon became part of the
city's intellectual calendar. It was common for Rio de Janeiro's scientists and
intellectuals to travel to São Paulo for these meetings. Otto Bier, in his interview,
stressed that these activities were very important in building the institute's
prestige and recognition and helped to maintain what Neiva and Lima considered
its "university spirit," which they deemed necessary to protect it from narrow
Such a "spirit" was absent from Rio de Janeiro's Faculdade de Medicina, where
Carlos Chagas Filho launched his Instituto de Biofisica (Biophysics Institute)
in 1937. The Faculdade was unanimously described by its contemporaries as having
inadequate equipment and poorly organized courses in which the best students were
those who could attach themselves to a prestigious professor and practice in his
infirmary or laboratory. The basic disciplines, which were supposed to provide
future physicians with scientific knowledge, were the most neglected. There was
only one exception, physiology - thanks to the teachings of Alvaro Osório de Almeida
who provided students with an exciting image of what scientific research could
be and invited some of them to his laboratory or to Manguinhos.
Chagas Filho entered the Faculdade de Medicina through a public competition for
the chair of biological physics. His thesis was intensely discussed with Carneiro
Felipe, chemist; Costa Ribeiro, physicist; and Antônio Oliveira Castro, from the
Institute of Electric Technology of the Faculdade de Engenharia. It was the first
time the Faculdade de Medicina had used physical and chemical methods in the study
of biological phenomena. Once nominated to the chair, Chagas Filho left for study
in France and England; on his return he began to organize his research institute
at the Faculdade.
Personal and family contacts provided financial support to free Chagas and his
collaborators from bureaucratic constraints. A position of "specialized technician"
with a salary above that of an assistant professor was created in the Faculdade
de Medicina through direct interference of Luis Simões Lopes, director of the
powerful Departamento de Administração do Serviço Público. To his ability to get
support, Chagas added a modern and updated view on how scientific work should
be carried out: emphasis on interpersonal cooperation and exchange of information
among all scientists; openness to curiosity, questioning, and exchange of ideas;
curtailment of excessive bureaucratization and hierarchy. Chagas would say that
a scientific institution is made first with people, then with problems and equipment,
and finally with the workplace. This view was in contrast to the Brazilian tradition
of starting with buildings, filling them with equipment, hiring personnel - and
only then identifying research questions that could justify their existence.(17)
Chagas' laboratory quickly gained national and international reputation. He invited
Tito Enéas Leme Lopes and Lafaiete Rodrigues Pereira, both trained in Manguinhos,
and Oromar Moreira, José Moura Gonçalves, and José Batista Veiga Sales, all biochemists
from Belo Horizonte endorsed by Baeta Viana. Herta Meyer, who used to work in
the laboratory of pathology in Manguinhos, which was supported by the Rockefeller
Foundation, started the laboratory of histology, together with Joao Machado. They
conducted studies on the culture of protozoa, such as the Trypanosome cruzi
and the Plasmodium aviarium, with direct relevance to public health and were supported
by the Serviço Especial de Grandes Endemias (Special Service of Large Epidemics),
a nonofficial agency headed by Chagas' brother Evandro and supported with resources
from the Guinle family; and the bioelectrogenesis of the hearth tissues, stemming
from strictly academic motivations. The next laboratory to be organized was the
one in biophysics headed by Chagas and with the cooperation of Bernhard Gross,
from the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia. The main subject was the bioelectrogenesis
of the Eletrophorus eletricus, an electric fish found in the Amazon region
that provided a unique vehicle for studying the interaction between biological
and physical processes.
The comparison between these two institutions - the Instituto Biológico and the
Instituto de Biofisica - shows some common elements and important differences.
Both were led by strong personalities trained in Europe and in Manguinhos-Neiva,
Rocha Lima, and Chagas Filho Both benefitted from the intense and close interpersonal
links their leaders maintained with strong political figures, which were essential
to protect them from the sameness forced on all institutions by the public bureaucracy.
Finally, they shared a new and daring view of the role of modern science as strongly
based on fundamental research and enlarged intellectual horizons.
That the Instituto Biológico was an institution for applied research would finally
make a difference. For some years Rocha Lima's prestige and strong personality,
combined with his family ties to the state appointed governor, Fernando Costa,
was enough to protect the institute from outside interference. After 1937, however,
with Ademar de Barros in the state government, not only' the Instituto Biológico
but also all scientific and educational institutions in São Paulo began to suffer.(18)
In 1949 Rocha Lima resigned, and the Biológico entered a period of slow decay.
In contrast, the best years of the Instituto de Biofisica were still to come.
Chagas' leadership, which would continue until the 1980s; the protection against
short-term demands and external interference; the relative independence from the
professional courses; and a strong commitment to high standards of excellence
all combined to make the Instituto de Biofisica a genuine heir of Manguinhos'
Chemistry: Limits and Possibilities of the German Model.
Brazilian chemistry has always counted on significant German participation, as
illustrated by a list of some of the field's most important names.(19)
Theodore Teckolt, born in German Silesia and a University of Rostock pharmacy
graduate, reorganized the Museu Nacional's chemistry laboratory in 1874 under
Ladislau Neto; Wilhelm Michler, born in Württemberg, studied at Stuttgart Polytechnic
Institute, received his doctorate in Zurich with Victor Meyer, and was appointed
professor of industrial chemistry at the Escola Politécnica in Rio in 1884. He
used private funds to organize a chemistry laboratory' where he could carry out
his work and train disciples: F G. Dafert, who organized Campinas' Estação Agronômica
in 1887; Alfred Schaeffer, who earned his bachelor's degree in pharmacy and his
doctorate in chemistry' from the University of Munich and organized not only Minas
Gerais' Laboratório de Análise do Estado in Belo Horizonte in 1911 but also that
of the Escola de Engenharia some years later; Otto Rothe, who had a doctorate
in chemistry from the University o Iena and was hired in 1920 to set up the chemistry
course at Porto Alegre's Escola de Engenharia and in 1926 succeeded Schaeffer
in Belo Horizonte; and several others.
Participation by Germans became even more pronounced with the arrival of Heinrich
Rheinboldt at the Universidade de São Paulo and of Fritz Feigl at Rio de Janeiro's
Laboratório de Produção Mineral, which belonged to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Rheinboldt was followed by his assistant. Heinrich Hauptmann, and later by Herbert
Stettiner, Hans Stammreich, and Pawel Kromholz. Hans Zocher, formerly a professor
at the universities of Berlin and Prague was to work with Fritz Feigl.
There were three reasons behind this strong German presence: the economic and
migratory bonds linking Brazil and Germany until the 1930s; the problem that young
German professors faced in the job market due to the traditional rigidity of the
German universities; and the crises and persecutions caused by Germany's growing
Nazi movement, which led to the withdrawal not only of Jewish scientists but also
of those who were simply liberal. Brazil, on the other hand, was very interested
in German chemistry, perhaps because of the German tradition of integration of
chemical research and industrial activities. This is therefore an excellent testing
ground for the possibilities of transplanting such a tradition to a different
social and economic context. As we shall see, the failure to reproduce this integration
contributed to the difficulties encountered in attempting to establish chemistry
The German presence was not exclusive. A detailed survey of professors of chemistry
and authors of chemistry books, carried out by Heinrich Rheinboldit, shows a long
list of non-German names in the country's schools of medicine and engineering,
some of them rated as very original and competent.(20)
Rio de Janeiro's Instituto de Química (Chemistry Institute) was the first institution
specifically devoted to this subject. It was organized as a center of research
and training that was to provide "strictly scientific courses for the training
of professional chemists" and short courses for nonspecialists who would learn
"certain aspects of applied chemistry for use in industry and commerce."(21)
These short-lived courses eventually inspired the creation of various other industrial
chemistry courses throughout the country'. In 1920, funding of 100 "contos de
réis" (approximately 6,000) was made available for courses to be established in
Belém, Recife, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo,
and Porto Alegre. For a while this bill gave a boost to the chemistry studies
in engineering courses at São Paulo's Escola Politécnica; at the engineering schools
of Belo Horizonte (which hired Schaeffer and von Burgher), Porto Alegre (which
hired Otto Rothe and E. Schirm), and Recife; and at Niterói's Escola Superior
de Agricultura e Veterinária. Earlier, in 1926, the Escola Politécnica de São
Paulo had merged its chemistry and industrial engineering courses to form its
course in chemical engineering. When federal funding was cut in 1930, this experience
practically ended. Only the institutions that had begun their chemistry programs
independently continued to exist. In 1934 a new institution, the Escola Nacional
de Química (National School of Chemistry), was created in Rio, but it never developed
into a significant research institution.(22)
In hindsight it is clear that initial attempts to implant chemistry in Brazil
failed because the country did not reproduce the special combination of a strong
academic environment and an active chemical industry that was so striking in the
German case. Experience showed that if neither of the two conditions existed chemical
research would benefit more from emphasis on academic work than from emphasis
on applied results.(23)
Chemistry research at the Universidade de São Paulo was established in the German
tradition by Heinrich Rheinboldt, who arrived in Brazil in 1934 as an accomplished
scientist.(24) He was accompanied by Heinrich Hauptmann, who
obtained his doctoral degree in chemistry under Fritz Strauss and had worked in
Göttingen with Adolf Windaus, who received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1928
for the discovery of cholesterol; and by Herbert Stettiner, who had obtained his
doctorate from the University of Berlin in 1928.
The chemistry department of the Faculdade de Filosofia came to be known for the
practical, systematic, and empirical orientation Rheinboldt and his team gave
it. "The first groups of students were very small. I belonged to the third or
fourth generation, and we were twenty-four students. We lived in the laboratories,
from eight in the morning to six in the afternoon. We left the laboratories only
to attend classes."(25) Rheinboldt took care of theoretical and experimental
classes and the teaching of general and inorganic chemistry and analytical chemistry,
with the assistance of Stettiner. Hauptmann was in charge of practical work and
the teaching of physical, organic, and biological chemistry.(26)
Rheinboldt always referred to his department as "the institute," in the German
tradition, and behaved accordingly. In addition to the license in chemistry, granted
for secondary school teachers, he also offered a doctoral degree for those who
could write a dissertation based on an original research project under the direction
of a professor. Two of the first four students, Simão Mathias and Pascoal Senise,
got their doctoral degrees and were hired by the department.(27)
At first, the chemistry and physics departments were housed at the Escola Politécnica,
but when they were not well received they moved to the pharmacy section of the
Faculdade de Medicina. That was worse,(28) and
sometime later the department was housed in a provisional building at the Alameda
Hostility from the professional schools did not stop the chemistry department
from training good chemists. Those who graduated from the Faculdade de Filosofia
were considered the best generation of professional chemists ever educated in
Brazil and had no difficulty finding jobs in the growing number of national and
multinational industries being established in São Paulo and elsewhere. This does
not mean that there was any kind of interaction between the department and some
agency of economic or industrial planning, or with the private sector. Except
for the war years, when the department helped with the development of quartz crystals
for the sonar project, there was almost no direct contact between their professors
and the industry or governmental agencies.
This was contrary to the German experience and therefore considered a bad thing.
Simão Mathias described the situation:
If we look at the important chemistry departments in Germany and
elsewhere after World War II (or even after World War I in the United States),
we see that they had intense contacts with industries. There were always contracts
and other forms of collaboration between the industrialists and the scientists.
This is an old German tradition that was taken up by the Americans. Here in
Brazil, unfortunately, it was never understood. Our laws of full-time dedication
forbid such arrangements. Nobody ever favored the contacts between industry
and science in our country. When I was director of the chemistry department
[at the Universidade de São Paulo] I made several approaches to the Federação
das Indústrias looking for some kind of integration. Nothing came out of it.
The problem was not limited to lack of understanding or rigid regulations for
Most of our chemical industries are controlled by multinational corporations
or associated with them. These industries have their laboratories in their countries
of origin and are not interested in doing scientific research in Brazil... The
country needs to create its own technology', relevant to our reality, instead
of transferring technology from more advanced countries and forcing on us a
system developed by them.
Not only did the industrial companies turn their back on the chemistry departments,
but so did the government: "We never had well-defined applied research projects.
No problem relevant for the country was ever brought to us to research. One example
is alcohol. Now the government has woken up and discovered that alcohol could
replace oil. We chemists have known it for centuries." This isolation, however,
did not seem to have hurt the quality of research carried out at the Universidade
de São Paulo. "Chemical phenomena have no boundaries. They happen here as they
do on other planets, as we are learning now with astrophysics. All our scientific
work is being published in international journals and adds to the existing knowledge
in this scientific field."(29)
In other words, the chemical researchers at the Faculdade de Filosofia longed
for a much more applied work, but their relative success(30)
is explained by the fact that they, willingly or not, geared their work toward
basic research. The misconceptions built into Mathias frustrations with his department
were well captured by Joseph Ben-David in a report he wrote about the Brazilian
scientific community and its frustration over applied work after a brief visit
Limiting research and training to the requirements of such technologically
defined problems would be in the long run highly inefficient. The people trained
for such purposes would have great difficulty learning new technologies, and
research of such limited kind would become obsolete in a short time. New techno
logical needs would require new plans for training and research, and the maturation
of the plans would usually lag far behind the needs... Contrary to the myth
that developing countries cannot afford pure science and must adjust their investments
in research and training to precise economic goals, this would be for them the
most unreasonable thing to do. Since they have great uncertain ties about the
future course of their economic-technological developments, by subjecting their
efforts to narrow considerations they are likely to misdirect and waste them.(31)
Rheinboldt and Hauptmann continued in Brazil with the research interests they
had defined in Germany. Rheinboldt's work was related to the "study of organic
and molecular compounds of sulfur, and later the organic compounds of selenium
and tellurium." Hauptmann worked on the composition of natural products found
in Brazil, including the chemistry of coffee. The research line on natural products
was carried on by Walter B. Mors who studied under Hauptmann and in 1943 joined
a newly created Instituto Agronômico do Norte in the city of Belém, one of several
agricultural research stations then established by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture.
The institute worked, among other things, on natural rubber, a product that had
military significance in those years; that research received strong support from
the U.S. government. Mors worked on the properties of a plant known locally as
"timbó," which produced a substance used in the production of insecticides and
of strategic relevance as well. Later he helped organize the Instituto de Química
Agrícola (Institute of Agricultural Chemistry) in Rio de Janeiro, also a branch
of the Ministry of Agriculture but dismantled by administrative decree in 1962.(32)
Gleb Wataghin and Cosmic Ray Physics
Modern physics started in Brazil at the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras
of the Universidade de São Paulo through particle physics and, unlike chemistry
or the biological sciences, without any practical applications or results. In
the following decades there would be several chances to prove its practical worth,
and physics as a discipline would become the strongest research field in Brazil.(33)
Physics research began with Gleb Wataghin who had been invited by Teodoro Ramos
through Enrico Fermi. Along with Francesco Cerelli from the Italian Academy of
Sciences, Fermi helped locate suitable candidates. Wataghin was one of them, the
other being mathematician Luigi Fantappié, then twenty-nine years old.(34) Wataghin did not belong to Europe's first rank
of physical scientists, but he was close enough to know the leading names, understand
their work, and identify suitable research questions for himself and his students.(35)
In 1927 he attended an international physics conference in Cuomo, where he became
acquainted with the best-known physicists of his time. In 1930 he published an
article in the Zeitschrift für Physik having to do with nuclear particles
and forces, which was discussed at the Solvay conference of that year and led
to an exchange of letters with Enrico Fermi. In 1931 Wataghin began his studies
on cosmic rays (a research line began in 1921 by Robert A. Millikan in the United
States and continued by Arthur Compton) and published his first article on the
so-called relativistic cutoff. In 1933 Wataghin traveled through Europe, spending
a few months in contact with Lord Rutherford in Cambridge and a few weeks in Copenhagen
with Bohr, experiences that would mark his entire life as a scientist.(36)
Wataghin and Fantappié at first shared a small office on the third floor of the
Escola Politécnica. "We had to give a complete course. Fantappié taught all mathematical
subjects. I taught experimental and theoretical physics and theoretical mechanics.
We gave many classes. Besides, I was told that I should start an experimental
laboratory. I have always preferred theory; I could, however, start with cosmic
rays, high energies. I could use a laboratory for that."(37)
His first students in the Politécnica included Mário Schenberg, Júlio Rabim, Cândido
da Silva Dias, and Cavalcante Albuquerque. Between 1934 and 1942 he developed
two research lines: one in theoretical physics, with Schenberg, Abraão de Morais,
and Walter Schutzer; the other on cosmic rays, with Marcelo Damy de Souza Santos,
Paulus A. Pompéia, and Yolande Monteux.
Wataghin was mainly a theoretical physicist.(38)
Between 1934 and 1936 he published several theoretical papers dealing with statistical
mechanics of light particles in high temperatures and with relativistic quantum
electrodynamics. His most distinguished student in theoretical physics was probably
Mário Schenberg. Schenberg had arrived in São Paulo from Recife, where he had
studied with Luis Freire. It soon became clear that he had an extraordinary talent
for mathematics and physics, and in 1936 he went to Rome to work with Fermi for
two years.(39) In 1939 Schenberg was invited by
George Gamov, who had been to Brazil, to work with him at George Washington University.
Together they developed a theory in astrophysics that became known as the "Urca
process, in a reference to the Urca Casino in Rio de Janeiro. Later he spent some
time at Princeton's Center for Advanced Study and in the Yerkes Astronomic Observatory
with Subrabmanvan Chandrasekhar, returning to Brazil it 1942. In 1944 he received
the chair of rational mechanics of the Faculdade de Filosofia of the Universidade
de São Paulo.
Marcelo Damy, who had left engineering for physics, was Wataghin's main assistant
on the experimental side since his graduation in 1937.(40)
Research work intensified in 1938 with the arrival of Giuseppe Occhialini, who
had studied with Patrick M. Blackett in Cambridge. According to Damy, he brought
to Brazil the tradition of experimental physics then being developed with J. J.
Thompson and Lord Rutherford, and a new series of experiments with cosmic rays
was begun. At the end of 1938 Damy received a fellowship from the British government
to go to Cambridge. "In Cambridge I worked with Sir Henry Bragg and his son William
Lawrence Bragg, who like his father was a Nobel prize winner. William Bragg was
a specialist in X-rays, and I had another research supervisor, Professor H. Carmichael.
Carmichael was Cambridge's specialist in cosmic rays and worked with Walter Heitler
and H. Bhaba, both Nobel prize winners and very famous."(41)
With the war, the Cambridge scientists became involved in the research to develop
radar, and Damy was invited to stay and join the group since the new technology
required very precise measurements. There was official contact between the British
Foreign Office and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry about this possibility. but
the Brazilian government did not go along. In 1940 Damy returned to Brazil.
In early 1939 Damy was replaced as Wataghin's assistant by Paulus A. Pompéia,
who had graduated from São Paulo's Politécnica in 1935.(42)
Wataghin, Occhialini, and Pompéia launched a series of studies on cosmic rays,
using airplanes from the Brazilian air force flying up to seven kilometers high.
At the invitation of Arthur Compton, Pompéia went to the United States in 1940
and worked for two years under the supervision of Norman Wilberg (later director
of Chicago's Argon Laboratory) developing new measurement techniques and electronic
In 1941 Compton organized an expedition to South America to measure the impact
of cosmic rays in the Bolivian Andes and in the São Paulo region. Pompéia returned
to Brazil to join Wataghin and Damy in preparing for the event. They worked with
stratospheric balloons, and Wataghin demonstrated the existence of "penetrating
showers" of cosmic rays, which were evidence of multiple production of mesons.
In 1942 Compton became the director of the Metallurgical Laboratory, which was
working on the atomic bomb, and Pompéia returned to Brazil. With all major scientific
groups in England and the United States involved in the war effort, Wataghin and
his group were for a while the only ones working on cosmic rays. Very shortly,
however, the Brazilians also would get involved in military technology.
The War Effort
"One or two months after my return from England," recalls Damy, "Paulus Pompéia
and I were approached by the Brazilian navy about the possibility of developing
equipment for the detection of submarines... We had many ships torpedoed by German
and Italian submarines and did not have any equipment to detect them. Although
Brazil had joined the Allies in the war, it not only did not receive the new sonars
and radars, but Brazilians were not even allowed to come close to these top-secret
military installations. Before that, we had also been approached by the army'.
They were making their own cannon balls, with Brazilian-made powder, and needed
to develop ways to measure the speed of bullets. This was our first military assignment."(43)
In both cases the physicists were approached after Brazilian authorities realized
that no one else in Brazil could carry on with such projects:
When we got this assignment from the navy we made clear to the person
in charge, Admiral Guilherme Bastos Pereira das Neves, that we lacked experience
with naval problems and had no experience with submarine detection, that we
were just "philosophers" working with cosmic rays. But to study problems of
basic science we were led to use non conventional methodologies to demonstrate
the existence of certain phenomena. We were therefore used to facing and dealing
with the unknown. We believed that, at least from a psychological point of view,
we had the proper attitude to approach the problem. Besides, we did not think
it would be too difficult. There were available a reasonable number of publications
on techniques used for submarine detection in World War I. Our problem was not
to discover new laws of nature but to rediscover, so to speak, the conditions
under which a beam of ultrasound could be emitted and detected and how to measure
the time interval to identify the submarine's position.(44)
For the army, Pompéia developed an instrument that could measure the initial speed
of bullets with an accuracy of 0.4 percent.(45)
He and Damy also developed portable radios for the army's jeeps and trucks. The
most interesting projects, however, were those for the navy. The first product
was an instrument that could hear the sound of the submarine's propellers. Later
they developed equipment to send an ultrasound beam but were unable to capture
its echo. Still later they developed a complete sonar. In its final version, the
ultrasound transmitter was made out of 400 cylinders of nickel welded into a base
of steel that had to turn continuously. The echo was captured by a crystal detector.
A special problem was the production of quartz crystals of adequate size, a problem
handed over to and solved by the chemistry department of the Faculdade de Filosofia.
A special thermostat based on the dilation of gasoline was developed by Dam y
and Pompéia to control the crystal's cooling temperature.
The development of such equipment, which was completely unknown in Brazil at the
time, required that a series of new technical problems be solved by incorporating
new specialists and institutions-such as the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, the Instituto
de Pesquisas Tecnológicas, and the Instituto de Electrotécnica, all in São Paulo.
In all, eighty sonars were built for the navy; twenty-two industries supplied
parts for the equipment, without knowing their final destination. The sonars themselves
were assembled in the building of the Faculdade de Filosofia at Avenue Brigadeiro
Luis Antônio by Damy, Pompéia, and eighteen specialized technicians.
After the war, the navy ended its cooperation with the physicists of the Universidade
de São Paulo, who returned to their academic and scientific chores. The technological
know-how the group developed had spilled over to other institutions and private
companies that began work on the production of electric equipment and other sophisticated
products for the postwar consumer market. As the country's economy opened up,
these industries were with a few exceptions either displaced by foreign imports
or acquired by foreign corporations getting established in Brazil.(46)
The war brought Fantappié back to Italy, but not Wataghin, who became an expatriate
from his country of adoption. For the Brazilians, Wataghin was Italian enough
to be kept out of the war projects being developed by Damy and Pompéia. He had
to step down as head of the physics department at the Faculdade de Filosofia,
but he continued with his research projects with the assistance of Oscar Sala
and Elza Gomide. Sala entered the university in 1942 and was immediately called
to help with the Compton expedition.
Sala recalls that when Wataghin invited him to participate in his cosmic rays
studies the physics department at the Universidade de São Paulo had already stopped
all its academic research projects. His first problem was to rebuild all the equipment,
"more sophisticated than that used before by Damy and Pompéia."(47)
First Wataghin and Sala put their equipment in the ceiling of the Faculdade de
Medicina; later they moved to a garage in a small hotel in the mountain resort
of Campos de Jordão. They worked with few resources and little support.(48)
After the war, with Damy as its director of the physics department, the Rockefeller
Foundation donated $75,000 for acquisition of a particle accelerator in the United
States for the physics department. Damy and Wataghin went to the United States
to choose the equipment and decided on a 23-megawatt betatron. For a year Damy
remained in Illinois working with Donald W. Kerst on the equipment.(49)
Upon his graduation in 1945, Sala was invited to work as an assistant to Damy,
and he went to Illinois in 1946 with Paulo Bittencourt, also with the support
of the Rockefeller Foundation. There he worked with Maurice Goldhaber in neutron
physics. In 1948 he went to Wisconsin to prepare for the acquisition of a new
piece of equipment for the Universidade de São Paulo: a Van der Graaf electrostatic
The research line developed by Wataghin on cosmic rays was continued by Cesare
Lattes, who studied at the Faculdade de Filosofia between 1941 and 1943. In 1943
he worked with Occhialini, who had also remained in Brazil during the war. In
1944 the university hired him as the third assistant for the chair of theoretical
and mathematical physics, and he later became involved in experimental research.
In 1945 Occhialini, who had moved to the University of Bristol the year before,
invited Lattes to join him. In Bristol, Lattes worked under the general direction
of Cecil Powell with Blackett, Conversi, Pancini, and others. He was reputedly
responsible for planning the experiments that led to the discovery of the meson-pi,
predicted by Hideki Yukawa some years earlier and for which Cecil Powell received
a Nobel prize. After Bristol, Lattes was invited to Copenhagen to present his
results; then he went to work at Berkeley's cyclotron with George Gardner, "with
the clear intention of trying to obtain the artificial production of heavy mesons,
since the light mesons should be produced by their disintegration."(50) There, he was able to produce the meson-pi and
show how it disintegrated into the meson-mi and a new particle, the neutrino.(51)
Lattes returned to Brazil in 1949 to organize the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas
Físicas in Rio de Janeiro of which he was the first scientific director.
That same year, Wataghin returned to Italy to become director of the physics institute
at the University of Turin. From then on he would return to Brazil only on special
occasions: in 1952 for a brief course; in 1955 to receive the degree of doctor
honoris causa from the Universidade de São Paulo; and in 1971, when the physics
institute of the new Universidade de Campinas was given his name.
While these developments were taking place in São Paulo, a different research
tradition was being established in Rio de Janeiro, even though on a smaller scale,
through the works of Bernhard Gross and Joaquim Costa Ribeiro.
Gross was born in Germany, studied engineering and got his doctorate at the Technical
Institute in Stuttgart, where he did research on cosmic rays. He came to Brazil
in 1933 and met Ducídio Pereira, who held the chair of physics at the Escola Politécnica
and was assisted by Joaquim Costa Ribeiro, Francisco Mendes de Oliveira Castro,
and Eugênio Hime. He was invited to present his work at the Politécnica and in
the recently created Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia, where he began to work.(52) His assignments were technical and applied,
but he managed to start his own research projects:
In 1934 the local electric company wanted to measure the electric
resistance of telephone cables, and of their insulation. We began with the measurements.
The cables presented a phenomenon that had fascinated me in Germany, together
with the cosmic rays. It was what was called dielectric absorption. We began
to measure them with very rough instruments. As the work progressed, we also
began theoretical studies, and the papers we produced then are in a way still
valid because this subject is as relevant today as it was then.(53)
In 1937 Gross became director of the newly created division of standards of the
institute, which was to define legally valid standards for weights and measures.
As a German, he was replaced as director in 1942 by Oliveira Castro. During the
war Gross had a minor role in the war effort, which included development of a
clockwork mechanism for the detonation of grenades. Caught by circumstances, he
continued with his research interests, and in 1942 he identified a phenomenon
he called the "freezing" of electric currents in electrets. His work from 1942
to 1945 was published in three articles in the Journal of Applied Physics (1947,
1948, 1949). He continued to work at the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia in different
capacities after the war.
Gross' main associate, Joaquim Costa Ribeiro, graduated in engineering from the
Politécnica in Rio de Janeiro and became livre docente in 1933. He held the chair
of experimental physics at the Universidade do Distrito Federal, while Gross held
the chair of general physics and had Plinio Sussekind da Rocha as his assistant.
When the Universidade do Distrito Federal was closed in 1939, the whole group
moved to the Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia. Costa Ribeiro cooperated with Gross
in different projects related to electrets and in 1942 demonstrated the existence
of a "thermal-dielectric effect" that became known as "Costa Ribeiro effect."
In 1946 Costa Ribeiro took the chair of physics at the Faculdade Nacional de Filosofia,
where he continued with his research and formed a significant group of students,
including Paulo Saraiva de Toledo, Armando Dias Tavares, E. Rodrigues, and Sérgio
Mascarenhas. Mascarenhas, in turn, organized the group of solid-state physics
at the Universidade de São Carlos in the state of São Paulo, where Gross worked
in his later years.
Some broad generalizations can be made about these experiences. First, the most
successful developments, and those more amenable to practical utilization in the
long run, were those with a stronger academic orientation. Second, they all benefitted
from the presence of foreign visitors or immigrants-Wataghin, Rheinboldt, Brieger,
and Dobzhansky - who knew how to form disciples and create traditions of research
work. Third, they sent their best students to international research centers at
an early stage.
These experiences saw achievements but also problems and failures, some of which
have already been discussed and others of which are yet to be seen. In any event,
they provided Brazil, and more specifically the Universidade de São Paulo, with
a scientific density that no other educational institution in the country had
ever had. The scientists coming from this university, along with those from the
Manguinhos tradition, would form the basis for the developments that would take
place after World War II. It is impossible to follow these developments in all
their details, but a broad view of their direction and a discussion on present
and future dilemmas is the subject of the second part of this book.
1. Dafert was born in Vienna and had a doctorate from Giessen,
Germany. In 1898, after returning to Europe, he was appointed director of Vienna's
Experimental Chemical- Agricultural Station. For a full study of Dafert's presence
in Brazil, see Dean 1989.
2. "The beginning of experimental work at the Estação Agronômica
not at all surprisingly attracted the keen interest of both large plantation owners
and those who were simply curious about what the specialists were doing there.
But a few were perplexed by what they saw. The work being carried out seemed too
theoretical; perhaps it could somehow be of use to national agriculture, but only
in the future. As much as the director of the station tried to explain that such
research was necessary for him to determine what direction to take in future experimental
work, he could not manage to convince them. Rumor spread that the director was
conducting experiments purely for his own scientific motives, without concern
for immediate practical application" (F. Campos 1954:496).
3. "The observations and experiences that had so far been accumulated
were inadequate to justify dissemination among plantation owners, as they still
needed to be submitted to tests in various regions of the state whose climate
and soil differed from that of Campinas. Only then, if results so indicated, could
the relevant advice be given to interested coffee growers. As this basic principle
was ignored, São Paulo plantation owners suffered many serious losses" (F. Campos
4. The Escola owes its existence mainly to Luiz Vicente Sousa
Queiroz, a wealthy patron of Piracicaba who had already provided the city with
such benefits as electric energy. In 1992 Luiz de Queiroz took advantage of a
state law that created the Escola Superior de Agricultura with ten subordinate
experimental stations. He donated to the state his São João da Montanha ranch
in Piracicaba, to be used as the site of this Escola. Initially backed by two
important state politicians, Jorge Tibiriçá Piratininga and Bernardino de Campos,
construction of the Escola nonetheless came to a standstill when the former left
his post as state secretary. The Escola was inaugurated only in 1901, and then
not as the Escola die Agronomia but as the Escola Agrícola Prática. When Jorge
Tibiriçá won the governor's seat, it was finally possible for the Escola to be
set up as originally d conceived.
5. While the Escola sponsored visits by such outstanding foreign
professors as Nicolas Athanasov, Arsène Putmans, and others, travel grants were
created under Governor Rodrigues Alves, thus providing further training for such
students as Carlos Teixeira Mendes, Trajano Sampaio, and José de Melo Morais.
The Ministry of Agriculture was prompted to offer similar grants to graduates
of agronomy schools, allowing such students as José Vizioli and Salvador de Toledo
Pizza Júnior to broaden their knowledge of various fields through studies in Europe
or the United States.
6. Brieger recalled that when he arrived he "encountered a
very interesting situation... in Piracicaba. José de Melo Morais, director of
many years, was an exceptional fellow. He was a chemist and had studied in Germany,
and although he was not a researcher his intuition was excellent. He had realized
that Brazil's old teaching system, based on the book and ignoring research, would
no longer do. Taking up the banner of the University of São Paulo, he wanted to
make Escola Luiz de Queiroz a full-time course and introduce research, in order
to turn a teaching school into a university institution. I found this all extremely
favorable, because I just can't imagine any university teaching without research"
(Brieger interview). Brieger later stated: "Something else that was very favorable
at that time was that André Dreyfus in São Paulo had taken a post as head of the
Departamento de Biologia Geral and was also interested in introducing genetics.
And Carlos A. Krug in Campinas, head of the genetics section that he himself created,
began introducing genetic improvement methods-I mean, improvement on scientific
bases. We three established a wonderful friendship and a great work atmosphere,
so that we ourselves criticized each other and defended each other from the rest.
We three had the idea not only to use fundamental and applied methods but also
to train disciples."
7. "He was far from a researcher, but he could smell, and he
had perceived that the old Brazilian way of teaching from the book, without research,
(lid not work. He joined the project of the new university in the quest for full-time
work and research and really moved in the direction of changing a technical school
into an academic institution" (Brieger interview).
8. "He would do very little research himself, but was able
to absorb knowledge and transmit it to other people; he therefore had the quality
needed to create a school, and he did" (Brieger interview).
9. "The scientific belief was that green vegetables are from
a temperate climate and could not be planted in the tropics except at high altitudes.
Seeds particularly had to be produced at high altitudes. I wanted to work in the
improvement of plants, and since we did not have enough altitude in Piracicaba
I decided the plants would have to adapt to me. I knew by experience that many
of those scientific theories were just a consequence of lack of observation. Nobody
knew much about the tropics in those years" (Brieger interview).
10. Pavan interview.
11. According to José Reis, Neiva was equally comfortable
in his laboratory and in the field, and he became one of the most important entomologists
of his generation. As director of hygiene in the state of São Paulo, he drafted
the first sanitary code in Brazil's history. He headed the old commission and
was responsible for transforming it into a permanent institution (Reis 1976b and
12. The first division was subdivided into sections of botany
and agronomy, chemistry, entomology and parasitology, and phytopathology. It included
most of those who had worked on the old commission plus newly recruited botanists,
agronomists, entomologists. and chemists. The animal division, headed by Genésio
Pacheco, was divided into the sections of physiology, bacteriology, anatomy, pathology
and entomology and parasitology.
13. Reis 1976a, 1976b, 1976d.
14. Bier interview.
15. Rocha Lima was the son of a prestigious medical doctor
in Rio de Janeiro and had been in contact with the Manguinhos group since his
student years. In 1901. after graduating from Rio's medical school. he went to
Berlin. where he specialized in pathological anatomy, a new field for Brazil.
He became a member of Manguinhos staff in 1903. and in 1907 he left Brazil again
to work at the University of Jena as an assistant professor of pathological anatomy
at the invitation of a former professor. Hermann Duerk. His scientific career
in Europe was considered brilliant and included a period in Hamburg's Institute
of Tropical Medicine and in the local university. He reputedly made important
contributions in research related to yellow fever and typhus. among other areas.
He kept up an intense correspondence with Oswaldo Cruz but returned to Brazil
only when invited by Neiva to join the Instituto Biológico in 1927.
16. José Reis described the "university spirit" prevailing
in the institute as "something one learns from great scientists and thinkers who
are used to thinking in universal terms, interested in the exchange of ideas,
and convinced there are no barriers among different fields of knowledge. It is
a spirit of modesty. based on the acceptance of criticism and the never-ending
need to learn. It is the spirit of open dialogue, not limited by differences of
age or hierarchy but based on the respect of each other's personality and thought.
It is the spirit of adventure in the search and transmission of knowledge, in
which the intellectual, spiritual. and moral concerns always prevail over material
concerns. It is the spirit of always starting anew" (Reis 1976a:593). The interviews
with Penha, Bier, Rocha e Silva, and Reis, and the significant scientific production
that came out of the institute throughout the years, confirm that this way of
understanding their work was present in their minds and had a positive effect
on their productivity.
17. Mariani 1982b
18. Maurício Rocha e Silva recalled those years as a period
of "complete disaster": "At one point they cut the scientists' salaries, ended
full-time work, and created so many difficulties that many preferred to leave
the research institutions and get a job in the private sector. The Instituto Butantã
probably suffered the most, and for a while some of its scientists-for example,
Anatol Rosenfeld and Leal Prado-took shelter at the Biológico" (Silva interview).
19. For the history of chemistry in Brazil, see Rheinboldt
1955 and Mathias 1975.
20. One of them was Alvaro Joaquim de Oliveira. a military
engineer and author of Apontamentos de Química, a book Rheinboldt rates as "the
best and most original Brazilian work" in the field. Rheinboldt points out that
Álvaro de Oliveira was, with Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães, one of the
founders of the Sociedade Positivista, and it may have been for this reason that
"he was led to defend the theory of the constancy of valence so unilaterally,
which lent to his work a peculiar trait. The works of Álvaro de Oliveira deserve
the attention of a qualified philosopher!." Rheinboldt's own position in relation
to positivism in Brazil was one of cautious perplexity: "It is very peculiar that
this doctrine - which clearly indicates what paths should be followed in future
chemistry research and which led J. H. Van't Hoff, for example, to make marvelous
discoveries - did not spark what was so necessary in Brazil: the abolition of
the old cramming system and the birth of pure research. But not even Álvaro de
Oliveira himself undertook a single original experiment" (Rheinboldt 1955:69).
21. Excerpts from the decree that created this institute are
cited in Mathias 1975:17.
22. First headed by Freitas Machado and later by Carneiro
Felipe, it was linked to the Departamento Nacional da Produção Mineral, which
maintained its industrial chemistry course until 1951, when it was transformed
into a chemical engineering course. The Escola seemed to have been particularly
closed to outside influences. From 1939 on, the Laboratório da Produção Mineral
hired Fritz Feigl. of international reputation, who was joined in 1946 by Hans
Zocher. Jacques Danon, who studied at the Escola Nacional de Química, recalls
that they had no influence in the school because they were forbidden to teach.
"The Brazilian scientific community - the community of professors, to be more
precise - was extremely jealous of the privileges derived from their chairs, and
it was afraid of more creative people. I don't blame them; I understand their
social conditions. The presence of such important names threatened those who posed
as scholars but lacked creativity" (Danon interview). The Escola Nacional de Química
went through several transformations in the years to follow, but the teaching
of chemistry as an independent discipline was institutionalized in Rio de Janeiro
only when the Instituto de Química of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
was established in the 1970s.
23. For Simão Mathias, a student of Rheinboldt's at the Universidade
de São Paulo, the industrial chemistry courses of the 1920s failed because they
were "merely for professional training. not aimed at profound neutral studies
or at original research" (Mathias 1975:21). The latter was to be the goal of the
Universidade de São Paulo's chemistry department.
24. Rheinboldt was born in Baden, graduated with degrees in
chemistry and geology from the Technical Institute of Karlsruhe, and had a doctorate
from Strasbourg under the direction of W. Wedekind. In 1927 he was already head
of the department of analytical and Inorganic chemistry at the University of Strasbourg,
and in 1928 he taught as extraordinarius at the Institute of Chemistry
25. Mors interview.
26. Mathias 1975:11.
27. It is believed that Mathias received the first doctoral
degree awarded by the Universidade de São Paulo.
28. "When the building of a new chemistry laboratory was under
way," Mathias recalls, "the medical students staged a protest: 'We don't want
philosophers in the Faculdade de Medicina.' For them we were the philosophers
from the Faculdade de Filosofia. One night fire was set at the scaffolds. It was
the end of the chemistry department at the Faculdade de Medicina" (Mathias interview).
29. Mathias interview.
30. The professional competence and high standards developed
by Rheinboldt and his group are undisputed. However, they may not have been as
up-to-date in their discipline as their physicist colleagues were. Mathias recalls
that Hauptmann's course in physical chemistry at the Universidade de São Paulo
was "a disaster." Paulus A. Pompéia. a physicist, says that Rheinboldt and Hauptmann
"were great chemists. but of the nineteenth century": "The Germans had gone a
long way in classical chemistry, but they did not know physics, did not know quantum
mechanics, did not know the physical part of chemistry. I believe this was a problem
peculiar to Germany, because in other places the chemist worked very closely with
the physicists" (Mathias interview). This is probably the reason several talented
young men who came to study chemistry at the Universidade de São Paulo, such as
José Israel Vargas, did not find the intellectual answers they were looking for
and soon moved to the physics department.
31. Ben-David 1976:17-18.
32. A strong research group on the chemistry of natural products
was developed at the Instituto de Química Agrícola with the cooperation of Carl
Djerassi, from Wayne State University and later Stanford, who previously had been
a leader of the research arm of Syntex Corporation. (Syntex held the patents for
the production of hormones for birth control pills derived from Mexican cacti.)
After 1962 Otto Gottlieb, a member of the group, went to organize the chemistry
department of the new Universidade de Brasilia, while Mors began a research center
of natural products at the Faculdade de Farmácia in Rio de Janeiro, later incorporated
in the chemistry department of the Universidade do Rio de Janeiro
33. For a detailed account of the development of modern physics
in Brazil, see R. G. F. Pinto 1978.
34. Cerelli had previously been in Brazil and had discussed
with Armando de Sales Oliveira the projects for the new university. Wataghin heard
that Fermi had suggested his name and reacted negatively at first. Then Teodoro
Ramos came and invited him "to Rome, where we went to a famous restaurant - Via
de la Scrofa - where the spaghetti was eaten with spoons and forks of pure gold"
(Wataghin interview). He finally conceded.
35. Wataghin was born in Odessa and did all his secondary
studies in Russia. His father was an officer and engineer in the Russian army,
and the whole family migrated to Italy in 1919, after the revolution. In Turin,
Wataghin did translations from Russian to Esperanto, taught Latin and mathematics,
and worked in the film industry. In 1922 he obtained a doctorate in physics from
the University of Turin, and in 1924 he was hired as an assistant by the polytechnic
school of that university. Five years later he received from the Italian Ministry
of Education the libera docenza in theoretical physics to teach rational
mechanics and advanced physics.
36. "I recall especially two types of events from my time
in Cambridge. On two or three Sundays I was invited for tea at Rutherford's house.
Everybody came. I met Geiger and became a friend of Dirac's. These gatherings
gave me a glimpse of English society, which in those years was usually so exclusive.
There were not only scientists but also ladies. For me, these meetings were extremely
interesting and useful." The other events were the weekly meetings of the so-called
Kapitza Club. "Kapitza was a soviet citizen and worked closely with Rutherford.
He is four or five years older than me, which means he was about thirty-six or
thirty-seven at that time... We became friends - we are both Russian - and we
used to play chess. I think he won most of the time, but it did not matter. The
important thing was the friendship, the conversations... " The next stop was Copenhagen.
"For the first time I met personally with Bohr. There was also Heitler, Heisenberg,
Pauli... Bohr invited me to present my ideas. Pauli chaired the meeting. Everybody
was against me because I believed cosmic rays came from multiple sources." From
Copenhagen he went to Leipzig, where Heisenberg worked in a period of great excitement.
"There I met Jordan, Debye, Max Born - who was just arriving - and Ettore Majorana,
a very young man who impressed me as a true genius, which he really was" (Wataghin
Interview). Wataghin was unknown except for his paper on the Solvay conference,
and he was always impressed by the informality and cordiality with which he was
received in this small elite.
37. Wataghin interview.
38. Marcelo Damy observes, however, that "Wataghin was a theoretical
physicist with a strong interest in the experimental side. He knew very well that
theory had to be based on facts because physics is a natural science. . . . But
he was not an experimentalist; he was not a man to design equipment, to make it,
to adjust it for observation. His contribution was in planning experiments and
analyzing the results" (Damy interview).
39. Wataghin recalls: "Schenberg returned a different person.
He had learned much more than I could have taught him. From then on we collaborated.
He did beautiful work on cosmic rays and then started to work in electrodynamics,
under the direction of Dirac. He had learned a lot in Rome. and I decided that
he did not have much more to learn from 'lie and should travel again soon" (Wataghin
40. "I started to work on problems related to cosmic rays,
which required very special technologies. For instance, all observations were
done with equipment based on electronic circuits. Radiation was detected with
the famous Geiger-Müller counters, then not very well known. But there were no
electronic circuits or radiation detectors on the market. The physicist had to
design and make his own circuits. build the detectors with his hands. and then
use them in his research" (Damy interview)
41. Damy interview.
42. Pompéia had worked from 1935 to 1938 as an assistant to
Fonseca Teles in the Instituto de Eletrotécnica, where he organized a laboratory
for physical measurements.
43. Damy interview.
44. Damy interview.
45. "Measurements of small time intervals were completely
unknown to the Brazilian engineers-that I knew because I had worked in the United
States with measurements of half-lives of mesons, which had the magnitude of microseconds.
It was a very specialized technology and very new... We built equipment that measured
the time the bullet took to cross two light beams" (Pompéia interview).
46. Leff 1968.
47. Sala interview.
48. "There was no money to pay for my expenses in Campos de
Jordão or for transportation. Wataghin would pay the expenses out of his pocket.
or we would look for well-known wealthy people and ask for their support. Once
Wataghin went to talk with São Paulo's governor, Ademar de Barros. Wataghin was
an enthusiastic person, and in that conversation - I was not there, I heard the
story later-the governor got very impressed, opened a drawer, took a pack of bills
and asked, 'Professor, how much do you need? It is a funny story, which reveals
how Wataghin viewed the governor" (Sala interview). It also shows Wataghin's isolation
in those years.
49. The installation of the betatron presented an opportunity
to train a new group of scientists, including José Goldemberg. R Pieroni, and
others. "It was the first equipment and allowed for the beginning of nuclear physics
in Brazil" (Damy interview).
50. Lattes interview.
51. Lattes' work in Berkeley is described by José Leite Lopes:
"An important achievement in physics, the discovery of pions and of the disintegration
pion-muon, and the work of Marcello Conversi and associates in Italy, on the capture
of mesons in cosmic radiation, marked the birth of particle physics as an independent
field from nuclear physics, after the years of limited scientific achievements
during World War II" (Lopes 1988:2).
52. "I was completely alone in a room that had... well, in
an empty room. They still did not have a physics division. Actually, they had
it on paper, and the director was Anibal de Souza, who later moved to the department
of industrial property. He did not do any work of physics at the institute; he
was more interested in patents and such things. In the beginning I borrowed some
electric equipment from the Observatório Nacional that had been purchased by Henrique
Morize. I needed a source of high tension, and a battery of 500 volts was obtained.
There was also a galvanometer. I have no idea on how we got it" (Gross interview).
With these instruments, Gross began work.
53. Gross interview.