Science and technology in Venezuela
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Science and technology in Venezuela includes research based on exploring Venezuela's diverse ecology and the lives of its indigenous peoples.
Major research institutions include the Central University of Venezuela and the University of the Andes, Venezuela. Notable Venezuelan scientists include nineteenth century botanist Adolf Ernst, the chemist Vicente Marcano and the botanist and geographer Alfredo Jahn (1867–1940). More recently Augusto Pi Sunyer (1955), Aristides Bastidas (1980), Marcel Roche (1987) and Marisela Salvatierra (2002) have been recipients of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for promotion of the public understanding of science.
Pehr Löfling (Tolvfors Bruk, Gävle, Sweden, 31 January 1729 – San Antonio de Caroni (Guayana, Venezuela), 22 February 1756). Swedish botanist who studied at the University of Uppsala where he attended courses taught by Carl Linnaeus. When the Spanish ambassador at Stockholm asked Linnaeus to select a botanist for service in the American colonies, the professor at once named Loefling. He went to Spain in 1751 to learn Spanish, and then embarked with other scientists for Venezuela in February 1754. In Cumana he had entire charge of the department of natural history, and was assisted by two young Spanish doctors. He introduced the first microscope in Venezuela. His prematural death was considered a great loss to natural history, and especially to botany. Linnæus believed the loss irreparable. The manuscripts of Löfling, which were found after his death, were preserved by his two assistants and Linnnæus posthumously published his Iter Hispanicum, eller resa til Spanska Länderna uti Europa och America 1751 til 1756 in 1758. Parque Löefling in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela is named after him.
José María Vargas (10 March 1786, La Guaira – 13 April 1854, New York City) He graduated with a degree in philosophy from the Seminario Tridentino, and obtained in 1809 his medical degree from the Real y Pontificia Universidad de Caracas. Vargas was imprisoned in 1813 for revolutionary activities. Upon his release in 1813, he travelled to Scotland for medical training in the University of Edinburgh. Vargas performed cataract surgery. He was one of the earliest oculists (eye surgeons) in Puerto Rico after his arrival there in 1817. He returned to Venezuela to practice medicine and surgery in 1825. Elected as President of Venezuela in 1835–1836 he resigned his charge in 1836. In 1839 Vargas receives from the President Paez office, an oil bottle found in Pedernales, located in the Canton of the Lower Orinoco. He submits it to various physical-chemical analyzes involved the fractional distillation and wrote a much more complete report than the "Silliman Report" which was written 16 years later and which nevertheless appears in texts, as the first scientific report on oil. His final paragraph confirms the wisdom of Vargas: "this finding is more precious and worthy of congratulation than that of the mines of silver and gold." It amazes that such phrase was written decades before the invention of the engine to explosion that uses petroleum derivatives to move all the cars and airplanes in Century XX.
Louis-Daniel Beauperthuy (Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, France, 25 August 1808 – Demerara, 3 September 1871) was a Venezuelan-French physician who made important contributions to the study of the causes of infectious diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and leprosy. He was the first to systematically argue that malaria and yellow fever were transmitted by mosquitos.He studied medicine at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, and obtained his M.D. in 1837. He was immediately appointed by the Paris Museum of Natural History as a "Travelling Naturalist" to work in Orinoco basin, Venezuela. He was one of the earliest scientists to observe microorganism using microscopy in relation to diseases. In 1838 he developed a theory that all infectious diseases were due to parasitic infection with "animalcules" (microorganisms). With the help of his friend M. Adele de Rosseville, he presented his theory in a formal presentation before the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. He suspected that mosquitos were the carriers of the infectious pathogens, including those of leprosy. In 1842 he worked at the Facultad Médica de Caracas (Caracas Medical School). In 1850 he became professor of anatomy at the School of Medicine of the College of Cumana. He was appointed the Director of the Leper Hospital in Demerara in British Guiana, the post he held till his death. By 1853, he was convinced that malaria and yellow fever were spread by mosquitos. He even identified the particular group of mosquitos that transmit yellow fever as the "domestic species" of "striped-legged mosquito", which can be recognised as Aedes aegypti, the actual vector. He published his theory in 1854 in the Gaceta Oficial de Cumana ("Official Gazette of Cumana"). His reports were assessed by an official commission, which discarded his mosquito theory. A hospital in Basse-Terre, called the Centre hospitalier Louis-Daniel Beauperthuy, was established in 1959 in his honour.
Jose Gregorio Hernández (Isnotu, 1858 Caracas, 1919). Graduated as a medical doctor at Universidad Central de Venezuela, in Caracas. The Venezuelan government awarded him a grant to continue his studies in Europe. Hernández traveled to Paris, France, where he studied other fields of medicine such as: bacteriology, pathology, microbiology, histology, and physiology. Following his return to Venezuela, he became a leading doctor at the Hospital José María Vargas. Between 1891 and 1916, Hernández dedicated himself to teaching, medicine, and religious practice. He sought priesthood in two occasions, but his fragile physical conditions would ultimately prevent him from achieving that status. He studied at the Monastery of Lucca in Italy for ten months in 1908. In 1913, he enrolled at the Latin American Pío School of Rome to continue the priestly career, but had to return to Venezuela for health reasons. Among the scientific publications of this famous Venezuelan are The Elements of Bacteriology (1906), About the Angina Pectoris of Malaric Origin (1909) and The Elements of Philosophy (1912). Dr. Hernández treated the poor for free and even bought them medicines with his own money. One day in 1919, while bringing medicine to the home of one of his patients in Caracas, Hernández was struck by a car and killed.
Luis Zambrano (Bailadores, 1901 – Tovar, 1990) was an venezuelan self-taught inventor and mechanic. He left formal education after the fourth year of primary school, but soon began to develop an interest in mechanics, enjoying discovering for himself the speed ratios produced by connecting oranges of different diameters and rotating them by means of jets of water. These toys lead him to consider new challenges and discover of physical principles in practical ways. In his Valle Nuevo workshop, near Bailadores, he empirically and intuitively learned enough about water turbines to generate electricity and mechanics to allow him to create about 50 inventions, some of which were commissions, such as a strawberry-peeling machine and a sieve for categorising garlic, and numerous improvements to various different machines, despite having lost his right hand to a saw in an accident in 1977. In November 1984, the University of Los Andes awarded him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa "for his useful creative work", the first time that this award had been given to a country man. He was declared an illustrious son of Bailadores, and a street in this Méridan village is now named after him.
Luis Caballero Mejias (Caracas, 1903– Caracas, 1959) was a Venezuelan engineer who invented the Precooked maize flour for the arepas in the 1950s. The traditional preparation of arepa flour is very labor-intensive, requiring the pounding of maize in a large mortar. Caballero used the profits from his patent to finance a Technical Schools system. The precooked flour was later mass-produced and sold in larger quantities. In 1954, the Venezuelan beer and malted drinks company Empresas Polar developed an industrial production method, launching the brand Harina P.A.N. in 1960. The product rapidly gained acceptance among housewives because of the tremendous saving in labor and its high quality. The original slogan was "Se acabó la piladera", which means "No more pounding". Harina P.A.N. has remained essentially unchanged since then, as can be seen from the original advertisements.
Arnoldo Gabaldón (Trujillo, March 1, 1909 – Caracas, September 1, 1990) was a physician, researcher and Venezuelan politician. Graduated as physician in 1928 in 1930 earned a doctorate in medical sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Then in Hamburg (Germany) completed a specialty at the Institute for Maritime and Tropical Diseases in Hamburg, later traveling in 1935 to the United States as a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation to obtain a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in hygiene sciences with speciality in protozoology. Back in Venezuela he was appointed to head the newly created Special Directorate of Malariology within the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a position he held until 1950. Under the direction of Gabaldón, Venezuela became the first contry which organized a nationwide campaign against malaria by using DDT, which led to be the first to achieve eradication of the disease in a large area extension of the tropical zone. He also discovered new species of malarial parasites and devoted himself to studying the mosquito Anopheles nuneztovari, action that catalyzed the recognition of educational needs and preparing managerial staff of the Ministry of Health, through the creation of the school that bears his name in Maracay, a deep and additional contribution.Between 1959 and 1964 President Rómulo Betancourt appointed him Minister of Health and Welfare and Gabaldón developed a management program influenced by his professional background grounded in medical and environmental sanitation activities throughout the country. Gabaldón authored more than 200 papers published in national and international medical journals. Gabaldón was active as an expert of the World Health Organization (WHO) in work for malaria control in countries from 5 continents.
Jacinto Convit (Caracas, September 11, 1913 – Caracas-May 12, 2014) was a Venezuelan medic and scientist, known for developing a vaccine to fight leprosy and his studies to cure different types of cancer. In 1987, he received the Prince of Asturias Award in the Scientific and Technical Research category. In 1968, Convit was elected president of the International Leprosy Association (ILA) and was re-elected in 1973. In 1971, Convit was named by the WHO as Director of the Co-operative Centre for the Study and Histological Classification of Leprosy. In 1976, Convit was elected Director of the Pan American Research and Training in Leprosy and Tropical Diseases. He was also named president of the International Journal of Leprosy. In 1987, Convit added killed Mycobacterium leprae to the BCG vaccine. The combined vaccine was tested worldwide, but was not more effective than regular BCG. A vaccine for leishmaniasis was later developed using Convit's method. He also worked on oncocerosis, mycosis, and other tropical diseases.In 1988, the Venezuelan government nominated Convit for a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his experimental anti-leprosy vaccine.
Marcel Roche (August 15, 1920, Caracas, Venezuela – May 3, 2003, Miami, USA) was a physician, scientist and scientific leader. Graduated in medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School, in Baltimore in 1946, he specialized in endocrinology and nuclear medicine. Before returning to Venezuela in 1951, he carried out biomedical research for some time at the New York Institute of Public Health. In Venezuela, Dr. Roche started several pioneering works as an Assistant Professor of the Central University of Venezuela on goitre, hookworm infections and nutritional deficiencies and anaemias, especially among the poor and aboriginal people. He was founder and director of the Institute of Medical Research at the Central University, and in 1958 he also became the Secretary General of the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science. Other institutions directed by him were the Institute of Neurology and Brain Investigation, reorganized in 1959 as the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research. He was founder and director of the Venezuelan National Council of Scientific Investigation and the magazine Intersciencia, as well as being involved in the publishing of several other scientific periodicals. Dr. Roche was also a pioneer in the area of public understanding of science and a pioneer in the production of TV programs and documentary films on many science subjects. He was very active in promoting science to the public and participated in many national and international organizations promoting science. Dr. Roche was an advisor to the WHO, UNESCO, a Governor of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1958–1960), and was a Member and President of the Council of the University of the United Nations in Tokyo, and Secretary of the Third World Academy of Sciences. He received many honours and degrees from Belgium, Germany, France, the United States, India and Brazil. He won the Kalinga Prize in 1987 from UNESCO for his work.
Baruj Benacerraf (Caracas October 29, 1920 – Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA, August 2, 2011) was a Venezuelan-born American immunologist, who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the "discovery of the major histocompatibility complex genes which encode cell surface protein molecules important for the immune system's distinction between self and non-self". His colleagues and shared recipients were Jean Dausset and George Davis Snell.
Humberto Fernández-Morán (Maracaibo, February 18, 1924 – Stockholm, March 17, 1999) was a Venezuelan research scientist, renowned for inventing the diamond knife or scalpel, significantly advancing the development of electromagnetic lenses for electron microscopy based on superconducting technology, and many other scientific contributions. Dr. Fernández-Morán founded the Venezuelan Institute for Neurological and Brain Studies, the predecessor of the current Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC). In 1958 he was appointed Minister of Education during the last year of the regime of Marcos Pérez Jiménez and was forced to leave Venezuela when the dictatorship was overthrown. He worked with NASA for the Apollo Project and taught in many universities, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago and the University of Stockholm. In the United States he was proposed to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. He rejected the nomination because he would have had to embrace American citizenship, which he refused, wanting to maintain his Venezuelan nationality.
Fuad Lechin (born in Caracas, August 8, 1928): Doctor of Medicine, Central University of Venezuela (UCV), 1951; specialization in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. Chief of the Sections of Neuropharmacology, Neurochemistry and Stress, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Central University of Venezuela. President of the Venezuelan Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. He has published more than 240 papers on results of clinical, physiological, pharmacological and psychiatric research carried out by his team and is today a reviewer for several American and European medical and scientific journals. He has addressed national and international scientific congresses on Gastroenterology, physiology, pharmacology, psychosomatic, psychiatry, and psychoneuroendocrinology and has spoken by invitation to the research unit of pharmaceutical companies such as Sandoz (Basel), Lilly (Indianapolis), Janssen (Belgium), and Bristol (New York). He has been included in the 200 Honours List of the 2000 Outstanding Scientists of the 20th Century – Second Edition – Edited by International Biographic Centre, Cambridge, England, year 2000. Dr. Fuad Lechin has been nominated for the Nobel Prize of Medicine, 2001 based on the new treatment of bronchial asthma and myasthenia gravis developed and published by his research group. He received the Gold Medal for Venezuela for his scientific research in medical sciences, 2006, granted by the American Biographical Institute. Emeritus Professor of General Pathology and Physiopathology at the Faculty of Medicine, Central University of Venezuela.
Maria Elena Marroco Valero (born in Valencia, Spain, April 17, 1938). She is a Venezuelan social scientist specializing in the learning of Organizational Change. Professional musician of the conservatory of music of Valencia (1960), Graduate in Education (1978) and Doctor in Social Sciences (1996) by the Central University of Venezuela. Its main contribution to education and the productive world is to maintain a line of research in social sciences, from 1969 to the present, aimed at decoding change in organizations as social cells, resulting in their theory of learning organizational change 1990 – 1994) and then the Work Education System (SET ©) (1996–2005) that would put theory into action, thus proposing a systemic option to approach organizational change.
José Esparza (born in Maracaibo in December 19, 1945) is a Venezuelan American virologist appointed as President of the Global Virus Network since January 2016. He is known for his efforts to promote the international development and testing of vaccines against HIV/AIDS. During 17 years (till 1985) he pursued an academic career at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC). From 1986 to 2014 he worked continuously as a viral vaccine expert and senior public health adviser for international health policy agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. José G. Esparza is currently an adjunct professor of medicine, at the Institute of Human Virology (University of Maryland School of Medicine).
L. Rafael Reif (born in Maracaibo, August 21, 1950) is a Venezuelan American electrical engineer and academic administrator. He is the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, succeeding Susan Hockfield on July 2, 2012. His research centered on three-dimensional integrated circuit technologies and on environmentally benign microelectronics fabrication. An early champion of MIT's engagement in micro- and nanotechnologies, Dr. Reif is the inventor or co-inventor on 13 patents, has edited or co-edited five books and has supervised 38 doctoral theses.
Gustavo Bruzual (born in Caracas, August 2, 1949)is a Venezuelan astronomer obtained his PhD degree in 1981 from the University of California in Berkeley, USA. His thesis versed on Spectral Evolution of Galaxies. Then after he joined the staff at Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomía (CIDA) in Mérida, Venezuela, where he served for more than 30 years, including 21 years as director of the center. His research is centered on evolutionary population synthesis and modeling the spectral evolution of galaxies. His work in collaboration with S. Charlot (IAP, France) has become a landmark in the field. Their three papers together have received over 6200 citations. The Bruzual and Charlot (2003) models have proven very useful in deriving the physical properties of galaxies of different types observed in large galaxy surveys like the SDSS, allowing to characterize galaxies at various redshifts as belonging to the red sequence or the blue cloud, and providing an estimate of the stellar mass and its growth rate,in these systems. Currently G. Bruzual is working on improving different aspects of stellar population synthesis, like the treatment of TP-AGB and WR stars in spectral evolution models. Actually is investigador Titular at the Centro de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica (CryA) in the Morelia Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and professor at the UNAM Graduate Program in Astrophysics.
Evelyn Miralles is a pioneer of virtual reality at NASA. Since 1992 has worked at the Johnson Space Center's Virtual Reality Laboratory in Houston (Texas), where she is the Principal Engineer and Technology Strategist. Miralles has been supporting space shuttle and International Space Station missions. Her first project was building a 3D model of a habitat on the moon. It was not feasible but could possibly be used in the future for a mission to Mars. Miralles was the co-author of the Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics (DOUG) which has been used since 1993 for training in virtual reality by astronauts of STS 61 mission who repaired the space telescope Hubble, and then for all the other missions. She worked also in the space station ISS, designing the structure and work steps for the astronauts.
Mayly Sánchez (Caracas, 1972) Venezuelan-born particle physicist who researches at Iowa State University. In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the United States to beginning scientists, who are in the early stages of their research careers. In 2013, she was named by the BBC as one of the top ten women scientists in Latin America.
The Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) is a scientific research institute and graduate training in Venezuela founded on February 9, 1959 by government decree, has its origins in the Venezuelan Institute of Neurology and Brain Research (IVNIC) which Dr. Humberto Fernandez Moran founded in 1955.
The Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomia (CIDA), is the main astronomical research body in Venezuela. Venezuela's main astronomical observatory is the Llano del Hato National Astronomical Observatory, located 3600m above sea level in the Venezuelan Andes. It participates in the Quasar Equatorial Survey Team.
Venezuela has a space agency, Agencia Bolivariana para Actividades Espaciales and control two stationary satellites: Simon Bolivar and Miranda.
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