Making space for zoology: Barbosa du Bocage and the foundation of the National Museum of Lisbon (Daniel Gamito)

Lisboa, October 19, 18h
At the Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon, C8 Building, Room 8.2.06.
This lecture is part of the CIUHCT Lectures cycle.

Pedro José da Cunha, A Escola Politécnica de Lisboa: breve notícia histórica. Lisboa: João Pinto, Lda, 1937


This presentation discusses the creation of new place for zoological research in Portugal from the physical and institutional spaces occupied by the Lisbon Polytechnic School. Thanks to José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage (1823–1907), zoology found a new place in the Polytechnic School from the late 1850s onward, despite initially occupying a less prestigious position in a School mainly devoted to the preparatory training of military officers and engineers. Taking advantage of the reconstruction and further improvement of its building, following a violent fire in 1843, Bocage transferred a natural history museum formerly located at the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon to the Polytechnic School, which allowed him to conquer a more prestigious place for zoology at the institution. Although successive governments were unwilling to meet Bocage’s ambitions for the Zoological Section of the newly created National Museum of Lisbon, the collaborators he found in different parts of the Portuguese continental territory and colonial empire supplied him the specimens he needed to expand the Museum’s collections and make a career as a naturalist. The establishment of links with the international community of zoologists proved fundamental to build the prestige of the Zoological Section, as it will be exemplified by the discussion surrounding Bocage’s discovery of Hyalonema, a specimen with a controversial identity collected off the Portuguese coast.

About the speaker

Daniel Gamito-Marques (n. 1986) has a BS in Cell and Molecular Biology (University NOVA of Lisbon, UNL) and a MS in Evolutionary Developmental Biology (University of Lisbon, UL). During his MS dissertation, he studied bacterial quorum-sensing systems in the Bacterial Signaling Lab of the Gulbenkian Science Institute. He has a PhD in History of Science (UNL), with a dissertation on the teaching and the research conducted at the Lisbon Polytechnic School (LPS), having analyzed topics such as the foundation of the LPS natural history museum and botanic garden, as well as the reception of evolutionism in Portuguese scientific circles during the second half of the nineteenth century. He developed postdoctoral research in Science Education, building the website Imaginative Biology, in which he uses the historiography of science to explain the history of important biological concepts, such as evolution and gene. He currently develops research in Literature and Science, in the context of “Visions of Lisbon” project, analyzing literary works of Portuguese authors influenced by Realism (Cesário Verde, Eça de Queirós), Naturalism (Alfredo Gális, Abel Botelho) and Futurism (Álvaro de Campos). His main research interests are the History of Ideas in Biology, Science Education, and Literature and Science.