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The origins of Scientific diffusion

One of the first periodicals in the country, in 1813, already brought news and comments about studies and inventions

Reports and commentary on science in Brazil are as old as the press itself. The manner of promoting and discussing scientific knowledge was obviously different than that of today. A beautiful example of this primeval form of the diffusion of science will reach the bookshops this year. At the request of the publishing house Casa de Oswaldo Cruz from Rio de Janeiro, the National Library has digitalized all of the eighteen issues of the magazine O Patriota (The Patriot), a publication that circulated through the then federal capital city for two years during 1813 and 1814. One of its main characteristics was the large space dedicated to science with foreign articles, mainly French, although there was the concern for providing incentive to the publication of texts by national authors.

The articles had an encyclopedic character, divided up into themes: mathematics, navigation and waterways, hydraulics, botany and agriculture, chemistry, medicine and mineralogy (which included meteorological observations). Monthly during the first year and bi-monthly during the second, the publication also brought questions such as journeys, policy, poetry and the description of different peoples within the Portuguese Empire.

“This miscellaneous theme is expressive of the culture of that era and demonstrates the weight that scientific themes acquired in the environment of the late Portuguese/Brazilian Illuminist Period”, observes Lorelai Kury, a researcher into the history of science at the Casa de Oswaldo Cruz and the organizer of the book of essays and the CD-ROM, with the entire facsimile edition that will be launched this year in a partnership between the publisher Editora Fiocruz and the National Library. O Patriota was the first periodical to relate texts on the diffusion of science published in Rio.

Its editor was Manoel Ferreira de Araújo Guimarães from the State of Bahia, also responsible for the Gazeta of Rio de Janeiro. According to the attestation of Nelson Werneck Sodré in his consecrated work História da imprensa no Brasil [History of the Press in Brazil] (Editor Martins Fontes), the Gazeta was the first Brazilian newspaper, although other researchers consider the Correio Braziliense as the pioneer. Founded in September of 1808, under the watchful eye of the Court already installed in Rio, the Gazeta had four pages and was weekly in the beginning and thrice per week afterwards.

The only concerns present in the periodical were to relate what was happening in Europe and to please the Royal Family – therefore, there was nothing concerning science. The Correio was founded a few months before, in June of 1808, in London by Hipólito da Costa. “But its insertion into the Brazilian press is debatable, less by the fact of being printed abroad, which happened very often, than by the fact of being established and maintained not by efforts from internal conditions, but by external conditions”, Sodré argues in his book.

The Correio was monthly and had a section called Literature and Sciences, dedicated in a good part of the time to discussions about the French university. On the other hand, the texts of O Patriota, some of them illustrated, had a concern to bring to the fore what was called “useful knowledge” for the readers in the mold of European encyclopedia.