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Chemist Blanka Wladislaw did research and taught classes with the same intensity

Liliana Marzorati Collection / IQ/USP

Blanka in the 1950's at the library in the building on Alameda GleteLiliana Marzorati Collection / IQ/USP

Tenacity, a willingness to work, and a vocation for researching and teaching – everything in superlative doses – were the innate qualities of Blanka Wladislaw, born Wertheim. These qualities were highlighted by researchers at the Chemistry Institute of the University of São Paulo (IQ/USP). Born in Warsaw, Poland, she became one of the institute’s foremost scientists and teachers – her many disciples are found at universities all over the country. Blanka died in São Paulo City on January 21, at the age of 94.

She arrived in São Paulo in 1934, at the age of 14, with her parents and her younger brother. She learned Portuguese in three months so that she could take the high school revalidation exam and passed the Portuguese, Brazilian History, and Geography tests. Four years later, in 1938, she enrolled in the Chemistry course, at that time taught in the building on Alameda Glete street, where some of USP’s courses were held, before the university moved to the Cidade Universitária campus. By that time, she had already married Anatol Wladyslaw, an engineer who would later become a renowned artist.

Blanka studied under German professors Heinrich Rheinboldt and Heinrich Hauptmann and she graduated in 1941. As she did not have a job at the university, she decided to work for private sector companies. In 1945, she came back as an intern at Hauptmann’s laboratory. Having received her doctorate in 1949, she started teaching organic chemistry. Her main line of research was the study of organic sulfur. In 1953, she worked as an intern at London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, thanks to a grant from the British Council. She passed the competitive test to become a professor and in 1971, was appointed full professor.

“When Hauptmann died in 1960, she also took over his teaching duties, which included being advisor to a doctorate student. Nevertheless, she didn’t slow down the pace of her research work and significantly increased her class preparation load,” says Liliana Marzorati, from IQ, who also had Blanka as advisor. “She introduced the studies of organic electro synthesis in Brazil, even though this was a different field from the one she was working in,” says Hans Viertler, former director of IQ and the first of the 29 graduate students that Blanka advised from beginning to end.

“She trained people so that they would find their own lines of research and go on to train other researchers,” says Paulo Roberto Olivato, another of Blanka’s disciples who took off on his own. “Her objective was to make students become independent.” Blanka was still acting as an advisor at the end of last year.