Letter from the editor | 190

The sharp wit of a fine scientist

Except for a single article, this issue of the magazine was not read by Professor Ricardo Brentani. The FAPESP director-president (2004-2011) died from a heart attack on the evening of Tuesday, November 29. Until then and since December 2004, he would look over, at the end of every month, the pre-printed product that we routinely submit for the approval of the president and directors of the Foundation before the files go to press. He tended to focus on articles connected to his areas of scientific interest, examining the illustrations that we had chosen, paying attention to what struck him as potentially dangerous ambiguities and, funnily enough, spending some time on pages of scant interest to other people: letters from our readers and the few advertisements.

Professor Brentani had his reasons for this. By reviewing the letters, he wanted to avoid unnecessary problems for FAPESP. The background to this was that we had previously received a long and irate missive from a researcher whose name had not been mentioned in an article on the development of a certain product by a small company and who insisted on having his letter published in its entirety by the magazine, without a single word being edited out, words, let us say, that were rather impolite and that he distributed like flowers all over the place. Brentani wisely decided that the letter was better suited to the legal department than to the pages of Pesquisa FAPESP.

As for the advertisements, his aim was to ensure strict compliance with the magazine’s advertising criteria, approved at a meeting of the Foundation’s Governing Board in November 21 of 2001. As an experienced manager, devoid of the slightest naiveté, professor Brentani knew that “the devil lies in the details” and that the art of copious advertising rhetoric might identify loopholes to breach the standards of the Governing Board in terms of the categories of advertising that we are allowed to publish. However, I must highlight that whatever he had to say to us after reading each new issue (and often it was just “it’s all OK”), when he did so directly, on this side of the line, at the editorial office, one often heard laughter, even a roar of laughter, from whoever got his assessment, because Professor Brentani, the respected and influential scientist that trained so many other researchers, especially in cancer research, along with his serious communication, always had an amusing story to tell, a hugely irreverent joke, or had some healthy slander on the tip of his tongue, thereby improving our mood and good cheer. And all of this with his expansive manner, with largesse, without self-censorship, which we shall miss. Thus, besides a journalistically important and necessary article, the text of special editor Carlos Fioravanti on Professor Ricardo Renzo Brentani plus the hitherto unpublished segments of his recent interview with journalist Monica Teixeira (for the book she is preparing on FAPESP’s fiftieth anniversary), which we publish here starting on page 30, with the editorial support of our policy editor, Fabricio Marques, should be regarded as the magazine’s way of honoring a fine figure of Brazilian scientific research. Of course, we are addressing these pages to all Pesquisa FAPESP readers, but we are dedicating them in particular to the scientists Maria Mitzi and Helena Brentani, respectively the wife and the daughter of Professor Brentani, to his family and to his followers.

Incidentally, the only article in this issue that was read and approved by Brentani was the one by our special editor Marcos Pivetta (page 56), about research into drugs with the potential to treat both cancerous tumors and obesity. Its authors are a Brazilian couple, scientists Renata Pasqualini and Wadih Arap, who head a laboratory at the highly regarded MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston. Both have studied under Brentani and he met with them on that very Tuesday, a few hours before the heart attack that took him away from us.

In the scanty space that is left, I would like to recommend the reading of the cover article on scientific findings in Rio de Janeiro that bring to life, with bones, the crime of slavery in our country. This was written by our humanities editor, Carlos Haag (page 24). I also would like to highlight the article by our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, concerning new evidence on the intriguing matriarchal system of muriquis, these great Brazilian primates (page 44). To all, enjoy your year-end celebrations, with a toast to well-lived lives.