8 de setembro de 2009

Darwin em Portugal

Intervenção de Ana Leonor Pereira no Congresso Internacional sobre o Impacto de Darwin

The reception of Darwin in Portugal (1865 - 1914)


In the 1860s, Darwin’s theory was translated, interpreted and disseminated in many languages and cultures around the world. And the Portuguese language was no exception. At this conference we focus essentially on introducing the findings of the historiographical research that we carried out on Portugal. In the scope of Portuguese culture, it was the 70s generation (Eça de Queirós, Antero de Quental, Teófilo Braga, Oliveira Martins, Ramalho Ortigão) who acknowledged Darwin for the first time. At the scientific level, Júlio Augusto Henriques introduced Darwin’s theory in Portugal in 1865 and 1866 by way of two studies presented at the Faculty of Philosophy of Coimbra University (the Faculty of Sciences from 1911) , which were called As espécies são mudáveis? (Can the species change?) 1865, and Antiguidade do homem (The antiquity of humanity) 1866. Through these two pioneer works, Darwin’s theory of evolution was further disseminated by the disciples of Júlio Augusto Henriques, future director of the Botanical Garden of Coimbra University. Yet another pioneer was Arruda Furtado from the Azores, who corresponded with the English naturalist in 1881. By the time of his death in 1887, at the age of 33, he had published several works, particularly on Azorean malacology, which illustrates the strong awareness of the Azores as an extraordinary living laboratory in the sea and on earth, including at the anthropological level.
Akin to other countries worldwide, in 1909 Portugal also celebrated the centenary of Darwin’s birth and the 50th anniversary since The Origin of Species. The documents published in 1909 by distinct cultural agents (scientists, writers, journalists, etc.) can in part be used as barometers of the acknowledgement of Darwin in Portugal. In effect, the writings of Aarão Ferreira de Lacerda, Raúl Proença, Miguel Bombarda and others reflect very distinct forms of understanding Darwin’s biological and anthropological revolution. On the whole, the different views mirror the competition existing between England and France for the paternity of the evolutionist idea, including of the human species, in natural history. The possible, or in some cases impossible, dialogue between Darwinism and Lamarckism is clearly symptomatic of the “state of the art” of Darwin’s revolution at the international level and, obviously, in national terms. What is insurmountably original of Darwin in Portugal is the use and abuse by several ideological and political fronts of the theory of evolution as the scientific weapon of the political-cultural war. Therefore, Darwin’s book of 1871 was the first to be translated. Furthermore, in 1910, the year of the Portuguese Republican Revolution, Darwin’s The Descent of man… is delivered to the printing press in the Portuguese language by two publishers and two different Portuguese translators: Charles Darwin, A origem do homem. A selecção natural e a sexual. Translated by Oldemiro Cesar (journalist, translator). Porto, J. Ferreira dos Santos-Editor, 2vols; Idem, A origem do homem. Summary translation by João Corrêa d’Oliveira (writer and translator). Porto, Magalhães & Moniz-Editores. The inaugural work of Darwin’s revolution of 1859 was first translated into Portuguese in 1913: Charles Darwin, Origem das espécies. Trad. Joaquim Dá Mesquita Paúl (physician and professor). Porto, Livraria Chardron, 1913. From a cultural point of view - particularly social and political culture - the core message was basically the concept of “humanity” as naturalised and subject to the laws of the fight for survival and that of natural selection. In a context of the cultural effervescence of republicanism, laicism and defence of social mobility, Darwin’s anthropological revolution was disseminated as “the missing link” for Republican values to gain ultimate and ideal intelligibility. Such intelligibility was considered ideal since it was scientific and not metaphysical or literary. Republican intellectuals, like Teófilo Braga and Júlio de Matos turned to Darwin and to different Darwinisms to legitimise their socio-political ideas. Furthermore, quite unsurprisingly, the socio-political ideas of Teófilo Braga and Júlio de Matos presented aspects which were hardly reconcilable and the same can be said about the ideas of other intellectuals of the Republic. Regardless of this battle of ideas, it cannot go without saying that Darwin was “revered” for his scientific authority, as one of the leading figures of the Republican utopia in the distinct scopes of his thought.

References in Ana Leonor Pereira, Darwin em Portugal (1865-1914), Coimbra, Almedina, 2001, 629 p.

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