Cruz, Oswaldo Gonçalves (1872–1917)

views updated

Cruz, Oswaldo Gonçalves (1872–1917)

Oswaldo Gonçalves Cruz (b. 5 August 1872; d. 11 February 1917), Brazilian pioneer in medicine and public health. Cruz's careers in medicine and public health were closely intertwined. As director of public health for the federal government between 1903 and 1909, he led the campaign to eliminate yellow fever, smallpox, and the plague from the federal capital of Rio de Janeiro. As director of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, he created the first important center in the country for microbiological research and tropical medicine.

The son of a doctor, Cruz obtained his medical degree at the Rio Medical School in 1892 and pursued further training in bacteriology in Paris between 1896 and 1899. On his return to Brazil in 1899 he joined the staff of the Serum Therapy Institute at Manguinhos, outside Rio, rising quickly to the position of director. In 1902, Cruz came to the attention of the newly elected president of Brazil, Francisco Rodrigues Alves, who asked him to lead an ambitious campaign against yellow fever, smallpox, and the plague, all of which were epidemic in the federal capital.

The campaign was based on the newest techniques of the sanitation sciences, notably the destruction of mosquitoes and their breeding sites, fumigation of houses, and isolation of sick individuals. Despite considerable opposition from doctors, sections of the military, and the poor, who were the main targets of the campaign and who objected to its intrusive nature, Cruz and his teams of "mosquito killers" were successful in controlling the plague and yellow fever. However, resistance to compulsory smallpox vaccination meant that many people were not vaccinated; as a result, the city experienced a severe epidemic in 1908, with more than 9,000 deaths.

In 1909 Cruz resigned his position in public health in order to devote his attention to the Serum Therapy Institute, which was renamed the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in his honor. There he established the first modern school of experimental medicine in Brazil. In early 1916 Cruz retired to Petrópolis, where he died at the age of forty-three.

See alsoDiseases; Medicine: The Modern Era.


Donald B. Cooper, "Oswaldo Cruz and the Impact of Yellow Fever in Brazilian History," in Bulletin of the Tulane Medical Faculty 26 (1967): 49-52.

Clementino Fraga, Vida e obra de Osvaldo Cruz (1972).

Nancy Stepan, Beginnings of Brazilian Science: Oswaldo Cruz, Medical Research, and Policy, 1890–1920 (1976).

Additional Bibliography

Scliar, Moacyr. Oswaldo Cruz: Entre micróbios e barricadas. Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumará, Rio Arte, 1996.

                                                  Nancy Leys Stepan

About this article

Cruz, Oswaldo Gonçalves (1872–1917)

Updated About content Print Article