The microbe is the enemy : debates on the microbiology in Brazil (1885-1904)

by Carreta, Jorge Augusto

Abstract (Summary)
The main objective of this work is to show the conflictive acceptance process of the microbiology in Brazil in the late XIX and beginnings of XX centuries. The focus was kept in the controversies about this knowledge among the Brazilian scientists and physicians. The first analysis made in this work is the one of the effects of the 1880's reforms in Rio de Janeiro's Medical School that was linked to the profissionalization projects of the Brazilian physicians. This project?s main goal was to introduce the most recent advances of experimental medicine in that school. The investigation shows that the reform was only partially successful, as they did not achieve a consensus regarding the knowledge that would be the basis of their profession. This lack of consensus is exposed by the analyzes of the polemics about the etiology, combat and prophylaxis of epidemic diseases that had been devastating the capital of the country since 1850. Special prominence is given to illnesses such as smallpox, yellow fever and beriberi. Also the trajectory of the Physiology Laboratory of the National Museum is investigated in this work, known as an outside space to the Medicine School and where activities in the microbiology area were developed. The analyzes of the controversies on the microbiological knowledge, not yet completely accepted by all the doctors and the society, revealed the depth of uncertainty that marked the Brazilian medical science in the last quarter of the XIX century. Already in the XX century, two episodes were chosen to follow this process: the foundation of the Manguinhos Serumtherapeutical Institute (1899) and the Vaccine Revolt (1904). In the first episode, the emphasis is made on the doubts concerning the production and application of serum to cure the epidemic diseases. In the second, there is an exposure of the suspicion of the physicians and population on the vaccine as a way of prophylaxis. Finally, this study shows the permanence of the dissent on the microbiology during the following decades through an almost unknown debate on the history of biology: the dispute between the ideas from Louis Pasteur and the ones from Antoine Béchamp. The last one denied the microbial theory of the illnesses and affirmed that the unhealthy states happens from disequilibrium of the organism itself. The microbiology still took some good years after the foundation of the Manguinhos Institute, fact that would be identified/known by some people as the initial mark of scientific activities in Brazil, to achieve the consensus (not absolute) that it has nowadays
This document abstract is also available in Portuguese.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Maria Conceição da Costa; Silvia Fernanda de Mendonça Figueiroa; Maria Conceição da Costa [Orientador]; Lea Maria Leme Strini Velho; Niuvenius Junqueira Paoli; Nara Margareth Silva Azevedo; Maria Margaret Lopes

School:Universidade Estadual de Campinas

School Location:Brazil

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:Microbiology Science History Social aspects Medicine


Date of Publication:08/24/2006

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