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ISABEL CRUZ
CICTSUL

CHEMISTRY, THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY AND EDUCATION IN PORTUGAL (1887 - 1907):
THE CASE OF ALFREDO DA SILVA (1)

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Introduction
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The work we present, under the title Chemistry, The Chemical Industry and Education in Portugal (1887 - 1907): the case of Alfredo da Silva , is part of the project "The teaching of Chemistry in Portugal in the XIX and XX centuries (up to the 1974 Revolution)", initiated in the Interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society Centre of the University of Lisbon at the beginning of 2003. Also included are parts of information we gathered during research carried out in connection with a university thesis dealing precisely with questions relating to Chemistry, the Industry and Education in Portugal from the 2nd half of the XIX century to the first decades of the XX century. These topics we mention - namely the school "universe", such as programmes, curriculum , text books, legislation, reports from department heads etc. - constitute the basis of a case study we consider of interest and particularly relevant for an International Conference on the History of Chemistry under the theme " Communications on Chemistry in Europe across borders and across generations".

Alfredo da Silva died in 1942, however his image remains and has survived deep felt global and national changes, in particular and respectively, World War II and the "Red Carnation Revolution". This continuing interest, despite radical disruptions, is obviously of great importance, however it is not our intention in this case to study these facts, although we are aware and accept that the group who keeps the memory of our chosen figure alive today and who were directly or indirectly involved (due to professional, family or other ties) with the development of the CUF Industries, of which Alfredo da Silva was not the first nor the last, but undoubtedly the most emblematic "boss", plays an important role.

Evidence of the interest in this remarkable figure who is still considered, in all justice, as perhaps the greatest of Portuguese industrialists, is to be found in a number of historical articles and studies covering various aspects of his life, biographical, economical, social and political and all inexorably linked to the man, the founder of CUF, the Economic Group, the Industrial Group and naturally the great Industrial Chemical Complex of Barreiro (now a city), and the inevitable expansion and transformation of this small rural, fishing village (industrial also but lacking the modernity of Chemistry) situated on the banks of the River Tagus. If to this we add those aspects of personality normally attributed to outstanding figures, as well as others that close and personal contacts ( now fundamentally indirect) had the good fortune to testify to, then perhaps we can come nearer to understanding the fascination for this man and why his work is periodically reviewed.

The proposal we bring to this Conference for Alfredo da Silva, is in all truth not based on any of the aspects we have just mentioned, nor do we wish it to be a biographical reconstruction of the period in question, fundamentally "pre-Cufian", despite the fact that some of information researched is relevant in this field. What we do intend for this figure who unquestionably left a very strong mark on Portuguese society, and which was particularly felt in the XX century, is to focus on the place he held in the world of national chemistry during his early years, particularly during the last two decades of the XIX century, a period that constituted the background of his scientific, technical-industrial, and commercial capacities, and furthermore the establishment of an effective relationship, as yet still rather superficial, between technical and scientific know how, acquired at the Industrial and Commercial Institute of Lisbon, and his subsequent activity in the chemical industries field.

These are the main hypotheses we considered in our study and the guidelines we used in the organization and structure of the text, which we have summarized and divided into the following topics.

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Paper presented to the "4th International Conference on History of Chemistry - Communications on Chemistry in Europe across borders and across generations". Budapest, 3 - 7 September 2003
 
   
   

 

 

 


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