|António da Costa de Paiva (Baron of Castelo de Paiva)
Doctor, botanist, teacher and 1st Director of the Botanical Garden
António da Costa de Paiva, son of de Manuel José da Nóbrega, a trader from Castelo de Paiva, and Maria do Carmo da Costa, was born in Porto on 12 October 1806.
He graduated in Medicine and Philosophy at the University of Coimbra and became a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Paris, after defending a thesis on pulmonary phthisis, prepared while he was exiled for his liberal ideals. When he was able to return to Portugal, he worked in his private practice.
Between 1834 and 1836, he conducted the chair of Moral and Rational Philosophy at the Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto. In 1836 he was appointed teacher of Agriculture and Botany at this Academy, by decree of 20 October and royal writ of 3 January 1837. In this year, with the reform of the Royal Academy of Navy and Trade Affairs and the establishment of the Polytechnic Academy of Porto, he was promoted to 1st professor of the 10th Chair – Botany, Agriculture, Metallurgy and Mining, a position he held between 1838 and 1858. In his office, he was appointed first director of the Botanical garden by decree of 11 January and royal writ of 28 July 1838, a position he held between 1838 and 1855.
Affected by pulmonary tuberculosis, he was removed from the chair and received treatment on the Island of Madeira. He was later retired with the rank of professor by decree of 31 December 1858 and royal writ of 19 January 1859.
As his health was restored, he actively engaged scientific research on the so-called Macaronesian islands, especially in the archipelagos of Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde, where he studied insects and molluscs, and discovered new species along with famous scientists such as John Edward Gray and Vernon Wollaston. The collection gathered therein was subsequently studied by Bernardino António Gomes and Barbosa du Bocage.
He wrote mainly scientific papers, authoring such works as "Aphorismos de medicina e cirurgia práticas" (1837) [Aphorisms of medicine and practical surgery], "Relatório do Barão de Castello de Paiva, encarregado pelo governo de estudar o estado da Ilha da Madeira, sob as relações agrícolas e económicas" (1853) [Report of the Baron of Castello de Paiva, commissioned by the Government to examine the agricultural and economic relations in Madeira] "Descripção de duas espécies novas de coleópteros das Ilhas Canárias" (1861) [Description of two new species of coleopterous (beetles) in the Canary Islands], "Novíssimos ou últimos Fins do Homem" (1866) [Eschatology or the Final Things of Man], after converting to Christianity in 1851, and "Biographia" (1877) [Biography].
He began publishing literary works with an annotated translation of Voltaire’s novels. In 1837 he edited "Crónica d'El-Rei D. Sebastião", by Frei Bernardo da Cruz, with Alexandre Herculano (1810-1877) and "Roteiro da Viagem de Vasco da Gama", credited to Álvaro Velho, with Diogo Kopke (1805-1875); in a second edition, in 1860, with Alexandre Herculano.
Camilo Castelo Branco commented on his writings: "The form, how he says it, shows that his Portuguese is of such good calibre, that I can only find a match of the vernacular of the author of soliloquies from among the pages written by the author of Eschatology, who has such good oratory skills (Father Manuel Bernardes), of whom we have a devout book identical in intention and title."
Júlio Dinis referred to the Baron of Castelo de Paiva in his work "Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca", with respect to a lively dialogue on Phrenology, Metaphysics and Philosophy he had with a German, administrator of Casa de Orneias in Madeira.
During his career, António da Costa de Paiva was awarded several titles and honorary positions. He received the distinction of Knight of the Order of Christ and of the Order of Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Vila Viçosa in 1836 and the noble title of Baron of Castelo de Paiva in 1854.
António da Costa de Paiva was a member of national and international scientific academies and societies, such as the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon (full member), the Society of Medical Sciences of Lisbon, the Zoological Society of London, the Natural History Society of Cassel, the Society of Natural Sciences of Strasbourg, the Botanical societies of France and Edinburgh, the Imperial Royal Academy of Rio de Janeiro, the Academy of Medicine and Surgery of Toulouse (corresponding member) and the Academy of Medicine of Montpellier (corresponding member). He was member extraordinary of the General Board of Public Education until its extinction in 1868.
He left part of his fortune to hospitals, charities, scientific and cultural associations and schools. He offered his Herbarium (in Madeira) to the Royal Academy of Sciences. It consisted of 600 species and a Botanical collection of 372 species collected in the Canary Islands. He offered to the Museum of Royal Botanical gardens of Kew, in England, a herbarium with plants indigenous to Portugal and the Azores. He donated to the Polytechnic Academy of Porto Government bonds to the amount of 1 000 réis, for the benefit of the Botanical Garden. In 1879, he left 1 000 réis to the Portuguese Academy of Fine Arts to set up a prize to award the best painting of a biblical theme at the triennial exhibition of that Academy. He also established a legacy – the Legacy of the Baron of Castelo de Paiva - at the Porto Medical-Surgical School: "Upon my death, the annual interest of this legacy is to be given to the Porto Medical-Surgical School to be awarded to the student with the best skills in surgical operations or in anatomical dissections of the human body; I reserve the right to receive the interest as long as I live. Funchal, 22 October 1874". (Translated freely from the Annuario da Escola Medico-Cirurgica do Porto : Anno lectivo de 1906-1907, p.143)
He died in Madeira on 4 June 1879.
Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2012. Scientific Review by Jorge Fernandes Alves (FLUP)