|Eduardo Ferreira dos Santos Silva
Medical doctor, professor and politician
Eduardo Ferreira dos Santos Silva was born in Porto on 18th March 1879, of Dionísio Ferreira dos Santos Silva and Ana Teixeira.
Born in a strong Republican, middle-class family, he was influenced by these ideals from an early age. When his mother died in 1894, Eduardo was the elder of four children, and had to support his father regarding family maintenance. At the age of 16, he worked in an office in Vila Nova de Gaia, and as a primary school teacher in Colégio Português, in Rua do Almada. In spite of the financial handicaps, in 1897 Eduardo enrolled in the Medicine course of the Medical-Surgical School. Concurrently, he worked as a private teacher.
Eduardo Santos Silva's academic path was particularly marked by his achievements: in 1903, he earned his Medicine Degree with a Final Dissertation, in which he obtained a grade of Good (16 out of 20), and a final grade of 14 out of 20. When he earned his degree, he did not start his job as practitioner immediately. In 1905 he was named to teach Geography, Natural Sciences, French and Portuguese at Liceu Central do Porto secondary school. In 1906, at the age of 27, he married Ernestina Cândida Martins Morgado, with whom he had 6 children: Eduardo, Ernestina Ana Cândida, Artur, Sílvia, Osvaldo and Fernando. In 1909 he specialised in dermatology and syphiligraphy, in Paris. By then he met a group of Republicans in the exile, including Aquilino Ribeiro, Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso and Teixeira Lopes. When he returned to the country, he restarted teaching (at the Alexandre Herculano secondary school), as well as his job as practitioner.
In 1911, he was nominated Director of the Normal School of Porto and, in 1912, was elected Rector of the Rodrigues de Freitas secondary school. That same year he established contact with the Freemasons and the workshop Luz e Progresso, under the name Erasmo, and later with the workshop Portugália. After the local election, in 1914 he was part of the Executive Committee of the Porto City Council, and was nominated Vice-President (to be President soon after) and local councillor for Education, Beneficence and Working Class Accommodation. As a member of the local government, some of his most striking works include the network of popular libraries, schools for handicapped students and a support system aimed at poor children, which offered them free meals. Besides his interest in education, it should be stressed that his job as member of the Porto local government marked the start of the construction of some of the most presently renowned buildings in the city, such as the Mercado do Bolhão, the Matadouro, the Porto Conservatory of Music and the present building of the Porto City Council, as well as the construction of a few working class accommodation buildings (Ramalde, Campanhã, Prelada, Lordelo, etc).
In 1918, during the period known as "Sidonismo", he was arrested and asked to be integrated in the Portuguese Expeditionary Force as a militia doctor, and fought in the World War I. He was awarded the War Cross for his performance.
Upon his return, he regained his job as city councillor (until March 1923), a job he held, together with the job of President of the City Council Senate until 1921, when he quit due to disagreement with the Republican Party. A respected player of the national politics, he was invited twice by António Maria da Silva to be the Minister of Education. The first time, for one month, was from 1st July 1925 to 1st August 1925; the second time was from 17th December 1925 to 30th May 1926. However, he did not have the time or the necessary conditions to implement some of his desired reforms. In 1926 he was invited to be the Clinical Director of the Rodrigues Semide hospital and sanatorium. After twenty years of absolute dedication to this institution, there was a conflict between his ideals and those of the Misericórdia do Porto, which administered the institution and was pro-dictatorship. In 1945 his resignation was accepted and, in 1948, he left his job as Infirmary Director.
In May 1935, when the dictatorship (the Estado Novo) was established, he was one of the teachers sacked by the Council of Ministers, accused of fighting against the regime. He was sentenced to "permanent inactivity, followed by retirement". As a strong supporter of the democratic ideals, he participated actively in the Republican revolutions, in particular the one on 3rd February 1927. He was arrested in Porto in September 1927. Later, on 5th July 1930, he was arrested again, and sent in exile to Funchal until 9th March 1931, accused of involvement "in conspiratorial manoeuvres".
From 1949 onwards, Santos Silva supported General Norton de Matos as a candidate to the presidential election. In 1950 he went through hard times, due to the death of his daughter, Ernestina, followed by his son, Osvaldo, in 1951. In 1955, at the age of 76, he ended his medical career, and admitted that he "no longer had the indispensible resistance required by doctor's job as practitioner". Withdrawn from teaching and from the job as practitioner, Santos Silva maintained his political activity and, in 1958, his name was suggested as a possible candidate to President of the Republic. However, in spite of the strong support he received, he did not go through as a candidate, and supported General Humberto Delgado instead. On 18th March 1959, when he was celebrating his 80th birthday, he was paid a great homage, which gathered more than 300 people over dinner.
He died in Porto on 14th September 1960.
(Text by Rui Carlos Monteiro Silva, 2008)