The Brazilian Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1916

The Brazilian Academy of Sciences was founded in Rio de Janeiro on 3 May 1916 under the name Brazilian Society of Sciences. Although it did not have the name 'Academy' until 1921, we shall refer to it as an 'academy' throughout this article.

The Academy met in the Polytechnic School in Rio de Janeiro and it had begun as regular informal meetings of the scientists who worked at the School. At this founding meeting Henrique Morize, Enes de Sousa, Miranda Ribeiro, Carvalho e Melo, Júlio César Diogo, Ângelo da Costa Lima, A Childe, Roquette Pinto, Alberto Betim Paes Leme and Everardo Backheuser were present. Henrique Morize (1860-1930), also known as Henri Charles Morize, was elected as the first President. He had been born in Beaune in France and settled in Brazil in 1874, becoming a naturalised Brazilian citizen in 1884. He was a student-astronomer at the National Observatory from this time and became an astronomer there in 1891. He was appointed as an Industrial Engineer at the Polytechnic School of Rio de Janeiro in 1890 and after the award of a doctorate in Physical and Mathematical Sciences from the Polytechnic School in 1898, he was appointed as professor of experimental physics at the Polytechnic School. He continued to work at the National Observatory, becoming its director in 1908. Morize served as President of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences from 1916 until 1926 when he was given the role of honorary president.

Juliano Moreira (1872-1933) was a Brazilian psychiatrist who is considered the founder of psychiatry in Brazil. Although not a founder member of the Academy, he was on the Board of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences from 1917 and became the second President in 1926, holding that position until 1929. For the next 20 years the President of the Academy held that role of two years. Some served as president several times, but not for consecutive two year periods until the biologist Artur Alexandre Moses who was President on four occasions, namely 1933-35; 1941-43; 1947-49; and 1951-65.

The original aims of the Academy were as follows:-
The main objectives of the Brazilian Society of Sciences were to stimulate the continuity of the scientific work of its members, the development of Brazilian research and the diffusion of the concept of science as a fundamental factor of the country's technological development.
When it was founded, the Academy contained only three Sections: Mathematics; Physics and Chemistry; and Biological Sciences. In this structure it followed the model of the French Academy of Sciences. The Mathematics Section comprised pure mathematics, astronomy and applied mathematics; the Physics and Chemistry section included physics, chemistry, mineralogy and geology; and the Biological Sciences Section covered biology, zoology, botany and anthropology.

The Academy began publishing almost immediately after its founding, the first volume of the Journal of the Brazilian Science Society appearing in 1917. It did not publish regularly after 1920. On 16 December 1921, the Society was renamed the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Academy's publication was renamed the Journal of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, still with irregular issues. In 1926 the Journal published an article by Albert Einstein on the Theory of Light. From 1929 the Academy published regularly the Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

The Independence Centenary International Exposition was held in Rio de Janeiro from 7 September 1922 to 23 March 1923, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Brazil's Independence. It took place on land alongside Rio Branco Avenue in buildings specially constructed for the event. After the Exposition closed, the Czechoslovakia Pavilion was gifted to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences by Czechoslovakia and the Brazilian government gave the Academy the land on which the Pavilion stood. The Academy was only able to use this as their home for five years, however, since in 1928 there was a redevelopment project in Rio de Janeiro which resulted in the Academy's building being demolished and no financial compensation given to the Academy. Many times promises were made to provide the Academy with a new building, but these promises were never honoured. Over the following years the Academy met in various different locations throughout the city, the use of the building for the meetings being arranged by the President. The President, Artur Alexandre Moses, who we mentioned above, in many ways was the person who put the Academy on a firm footing which saw it not only survive but flourish. The following is a slightly modified version of the material from [2]:-
Artur Moses, the first President Emeritus, reactivated the publication of the 'Annals' and, after successive successful ventures, crowned them in 1959 by obtaining government resources through donations from the Union, the National Research Council, and the Commission, which allowed the purchase of an entire floor of the building where the headquarters of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences is located today, in the street Anfilófio de Carvalho, 29, in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. The Academy has been on this floor since 8 November 1960. The library of the Academy, later called the Aristides Pacheco Leão Library, was transferred in the 1980s to the 5th floor of no. 64 Araújo Porto Alegre Street. The period from the first administration of Artur Moses (1933) until the beginning of the administration of Carlos Chagas Filho - who succeeded Artur Moses in the Presidency of the Academy in 1965 - corresponds to the survival of the institution, seeking financial viability, renewal and controlled growth of the membership, the acquisition of headquarters and the continuity of the publication of the 'Annals', all in the context of the great transformations of Brazilian society. In the 1960s, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Academy, the President of the Republic authorized the donation of a significant number of National Treasury bonds, redeemable in twenty years, through the influence of Carlos Chagas Filho. These resources, corresponding to one million dollars, whose use was not subject to any specific restrictions, considerably strengthened the Academy's potential.
As mentioned above, the original Academy contained three Sections but in 1953 this was changed to five: Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Earth Sciences.

From 1967 the Academy was recognised by the government of Brazil as a body from which to seek impartial judgements on matters of science and technology relating to the country. This recognition led to the Academy receiving financial government support which allowed it to undertake various research tasks as well as publish books and interact with other scientific academies around the world. The 1980s saw a sharp reduction in government support but by the 1990s the level of government support had been restored.

The five Sections of the Academy set up in 1953 continued but with further Sections being added from 1995 onwards. An Engineering Section was added in 1995 and further additions were made in the following years such as Biomedical, Health, Agrarian and Human Sciences.

The Mission of the Academy today reads [3]:-


The Brazilian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1916, is an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation that acts as an honourable scientific society and contributes to the study of issues of primary importance to society, with a view to providing a scientific basis for the formulation of public policies. Its focus is the scientific development of the country, the interaction between Brazilian scientists and those with researchers from other nations. The Brazilian Academy of Sciences receives contributions from its individual and corporate members and financial support from government agencies. With a current membership of just over 700 in total, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences is one of the oldest associations of scientists in the country and is recognized as the most prestigious of these organisations.

Institutional mission

(i) To recognize and stimulate - through a rigorous process of peer selection - the entry into its ranks of the most important Brazilian researchers who, by their leadership in advancing the country's scientific and technological activities, can be considered the most legitimate representatives of the community for scientific research.

(ii) To identify and encourage young people with great potential for science by promoting the annual election of talented young researchers from all regions of the country who have become Affiliated Members of the Academy for a limited period of time.

(iii) To represent the Brazilian scientific community, nationally and internationally, with a view to implementing a Science, Technology and Innovation policy that promotes the development of science for the benefit of society.

(iv) To promote the mobilization of the scientific community so that it acts together with the constituted powers, aiming at national scientific and technological advance and providing an incentive to innovation.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. Brazilian Academy of Sciences website.
  2. History of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
  3. Mission of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
  4. Organisation and Members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Last Updated September 2018