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University of Porto Famous Alumni

António Ferreira da Silva

Fotografia de António Ferreira da Silva / Photo of António Ferreira da Silva António Ferreira da Silva
1853-1923
Chemist and university teacher



Fotografia do jovem António Ferreira da Silva / Photo of the young António Ferreira da SilvaAntónio Joaquim Ferreira da Silva was born on 28 July 1853 in a cell of the Benedictine Monastery of Cucujães, in the municipality of Oliveira de Azeméis, the properties of which his father was the prosecutor.

He was the eldest son of António Joaquim Ferreira da Silva, from Santiago de Riba-Ul, and Margarida Emília Ferreira da Silva (1828-1914), from Manta, in the same municipality.

He was a relative of the actors and couple Alfredo Ferreira da Silva (1859-1923) and Virgínia (1850-1922), and of Rui Luís Gomes (1905-1984), mathematician and rector of the University of Porto after the revolution on 25 April 1974.

After completing his primary studies in 1865, he moved to Porto, where he went to high school. In the academic year 1870-1871, he took Chemistry and Zoology at the Porto Polytechnic Academy, disciplines offered by the Industrial Institute, and the 1st year of Theology at the Episcopal Seminary. Having completed the ecclesiastical studies, he was admitted to the University of Coimbra (1871-1872), where the obtained a degree in Natural Philosophy in 1876.

He was an outstanding student who received many prizes and accessits, in several chairs. The stain on his perfect resume was the marks obtained in the Botany discipline, which gave rise to the journalistic controversy called "A questão dos RR" [The Issue of the RRs].

He returned to Porto and began a long and successful career as a teacher and scientist, and competed successfully to the position of substitute teacher of the Philosophy Department - Polytechnic Academy of Porto, with the thesis "Estudo sobre as Classificações Químicas dos Compostos Orgânicos" (1877) [Study on the Chemical Classifications of Organic Compounds].

Three years later, in 1880, he was promoted to the position of permanent lecturer, founded the Society for Education of Porto and travelled to Brazil between August and October to marry Idalina de Sousa Godinho, his second cousin, daughter of the Viscount of Santiago de Riba-Ul, José Joaquim Godinho, his protector while he was a student. The couple had 14 children, two of whom died in infancy. Of the 12 surviving children, 8 were girls (Alexandrina, Alzira, Idalina, Alice, Adelina, Adosinda, Antónia and Margarida) and 4 boys (António, José, Alberto and Alfredo).

In 1880, António Ferreira da Silva was commissioned by the Porto City Council to analysed the waters of the Sousa River, resulting in the edition of the report entitled "As águas do rio Sousa e os mananciais das fontes do Porto" [The Sousa River water and the sources of Porto fountains], dated 1881, raising controversy to which Ferreira da Silva responded with articles in the booklet "Réplicas aos meus críticos" [Responses to my critics].

In 1882, he was invited to set up the Municipal Laboratory of Chemistry, and was appointed its director on 10 January the following year. In this laboratory, and inspired by its French counterpart "Municipal Laboratory of Paris", Ferreira da Silva carried out his major works on Chemistry between 1884 and 1907.

In 1884, he was assigned to the 9th chair and after the reform of the Academy, the 8th chair – Organic and Analytical Chemistry, in 1885.

The excellence of his scientific work was recognised in both Portugal and abroad and had far-reaching practical results.

Fotografia de António Ferreira da Silva aos 32 anos de idade / Photo of António Ferreira da Silva (32 years old)The mastery he had over Toxicology was decisive to sentence, in 1890, the doctor and teacher of the Medical-Surgical School of Porto, Vicente Urbino de Freitas, notorious for the crime in Rua da Flores.

As an expert, he also participated in the controversy raised by the Clinical Laboratory of Rio de Janeiro, which had diagnosed the Portuguese wines as having salicylic acid (1894). He chaired the Study Commission and Unification of the Methods of Analysis of Wine, Olive-Oil and Vinegar (1895-1902) and its successor, the Technical Commission of Chemical-Analytical Methods (1904-1913, 1918-1923).

In the late 1880s, alongside the wine issues, he also focused on matters of health in the city of Porto, publishing the works "Análise dos vinhos elementares e autênticos da circunscrição do Norte de Portugal" (1888-1889) [Analysis of elementary and authentic wines in the north of Portugal] and "Contribuição para a higiene da Cidade do Porto" [Contribution to health in Porto], in 1889.

In that year, he was appointed Chemist-Analyst and member of the Medical-Legal Board of the 2nd District of Porto. After these services were reformed, he taught Forensic Toxicology in the Forensic Medicine university course in Porto. After visiting the Universal Exhibition of Paris, he became the director of the research services on the chemical purity and illuminating power of coal gas of the Porto City Council.

In 1900, following a new indictment of the Central Analysis Laboratory of Rio de Janeiro that most wines exported to Brazil were adulterated with salicylic acid, the exporting bureau sent samples to Ferreira da Silva, who concluded that the small amount of that acid was typical of the regions where the wines were produced. These findings were conveyed to the French Chemical Society and to the Academy of Sciences of Paris and published in several articles and booklets. Ferreira da Silva was awarded the title of Advisor of His Majesty for services rendered regarding the wine issue and became an honorary member of the Porto Trade Association and of the Central Association of Portuguese Agriculture.

Between 1902 and 1911, Ferreira da Silva taught the 4th chair – Forensic and Health Chemistry - at the School of Pharmacy of Porto and in 1905 he founded the journal "Revista de Química pura e aplicada" [Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry] with Alberto Aguiar and José Pereira Salgado, which later became the bulletin of the Portuguese Society of Chemistry (converted in 1926 into the Portuguese Society of Chemistry and Physics), of which he was also a member.

In 1911, when the University of Porto was founded, António Ferreira da Silva was appointed Ordinary Professor of the Chemistry group, Department of Physics-Chemistry Sciences, conducting courses in Organic, Analytical and Preparatory Chemistry for the Medicine courses. He was also elected Head of the Faculty of Sciences, a position he held until August 1912.

At that time, he was invited by the Business Development of Agricultural products to evaluate the Port wine, which had been under fierce attack in Brazil. The result of his study was published in the booklet "O Comércio de vinhos do Porto nos mercados do Brasil em 1911" [Port wine trade in Brazilian markets in 1911].

Between 16 February 1918 and 29 October 1921, he was Vice-Rector of the University of Porto, and from 1920 to 1922 he served as interim director of the FCUP.

Throughout his career, Ferreira da Silva published many papers, articles in journals, speeches, reports and communications in congresses, on Chemistry Applied to Health, Food and Hydrology. He also authored several textbooks.

He belonged to several scientific societies and international scientific committees. He represented Portugal in congresses in Vienna - Austria (1898), Paris (1900), Berlin (1903), Rome (1906), Brussels (1909) and London (1909).

During the last years of his life, Ferreira da Silva worked in the Laboratory of the Faculty of Sciences, where he was a teacher, and at the Faculty of Engineering.

Busto de António Ferreira da Silva / Bust of António Ferreira da SilvaHe was a catholic and a monarchy defendant. He taught Brito Camacho, a doctor, writer and Republican journalist, and a friend of the missionary and Bishop of Porto, D. António Barroso (1854-1923) and of Bento Carqueja, university teacher and owner of the newspaper "O Comércio do Porto".

In the summer of 1923, he intended to rest in Santiago de Riba-Ul, but died on 23 August victim of cardiac arrest in Lameiro, Figueiredo. The book of condolences contains the name of Oliveira Salazar, who at the time was a teacher at the University of Coimbra. King Manuel II sent a telegram of condolences from exile.

The remains of António Ferreira da Silva lie in the Cucujães cemetery.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2012)

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