João Baptista de Lacerda

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João Batista de Lacerda (12 July 1846 in Campos dos Goytacazes – 6 August 1915 in Rio de Janeiro), was a physician and one of the pioneering Brazilian biomedical scientists in the fields of experimental physiology and pharmacology.

He graduated in medicine from the medical school of Rio de Janeiro and returned to Campos to open a private practice. Soon after, he was invited by the Minister of Agriculture of the Second Empire to be the associate director of the section of anthropology, zoology and paleontology of the recently created National Museum of Natural History of Rio de Janeiro, by Emperor D. Pedro II. Later, he assumed also the associate directorship of the Laboratory of Experimental Physiology, under the French physiologist Louis Couty, who had been invited to the post. In this position, Lacerda carried out successfully a number of experimental investigations on curare and the poisons of Brazilian snakes, frogs and lizards. One of his important discoveries was the helpful effect of potassium permanganate to treat snake bites. In the field of archeo-anthropology, he was one of the first to study human fossil remains in Brazil and was awarded the bronze medal of the Anthropological Exhibit of Paris in 1978.

An indefatigable worker, Lacerda also began research on microbiology, beriberi and yellow fever. He also studied several infectious diseases of agricultural importance, such as in horses and cattle. Most of the research carried out in his lab was published in the National Museum's own periodical, the Arquivos do Museu Nacional, as well as in other national and foreign journals.

After Couty died unexpectedly, Lacerda became the Laboratory director and greatly inspiring force; later, he also served as the general director of the National Museum and as a member and president of the Brazilian National Academy of Medicine.

He is generally considered the father of physiology and pharmacology in Brazil.


"In general, in Brazil, the men dedicated to studies and to science constitute a kind of noble proletariat, who exist on small salaries, hardly sufficient for a modest living. Neglecting the frivolous grandeurs of the world and feeling the inexpressible pleasures that scientific research communicates, they comply with this situation and accept it without constraint."

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Translated and adapted from the Portuguese Wikipedia.