Tropicalista School of Medicine (Bahia)

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Tropicalista School of Medicine (Bahia)

Tropicalista School of Medicine (Bahia), an informal "school" formed by a dozen physicians in Bahia (1860–1890) that made discoveries in parasitology and contributed to ongoing debates on beriberi, leprosy, tuberculosis, dracontiasis, and other tropical disorders. The Tropicalistas started as an outsider movement critiquing the Bahian Medical School for outdated teaching and Brazilian doctors for lack of original investigation into Brazilian disorders. The three founders were foreigners. Otto Wucherer (1820–1875), a German and arguably the most important member, discovered the existence of hookworm (Ancylostoma) in Brazil in 1865. He was the first person to describe the embryonic filaria (Wucheria bancrofti) in 1866, known today as the cause of filariasis. The Scotsman John L. Paterson (1820–1882) introduced Lister's method of antisepsis to Bahian physicians and organized fortnightly meetings for physicians to discuss their cases and keep abreast of medical advances. The meetings led to the birth of the "school." Paterson also proposed the creation of the journal Gazeta Médica da Bahia. The Portuguese founder was José Francisco da Silva Lima (1826–1910), who wrote about beriberi in Bahia, was the first to describe the disorder ainhum (a disease affecting the toes), and provided the perseverance needed to make the Gazeta Médica da Bahia one of the most successful medical journals in nineteenth-century Latin America. The Tropicalistas initiated one of the most innovative medical episodes in nineteenth-century Brazil.

See alsoMedicine: Colonial Spanish America .


Antonio Caldas Coni, A escola tropicalista bahiana (1952).

Julyan G. Peard, "The Tropicalista School of Medicine of Bahia, 1860–1889" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1990), and "Tropical Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: The Case of the 'Escola Tropicalista Bahiana,' 1860–1890," in Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500–1900, edited by David Arnold (forthcoming).

Additional Bibliography

Gilberto Hochman, Gilberto, and Diego Armus. Cuidar, controlar, curar: Ensaios históricos sobre saúde e doença na América Latina e Caribe. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz, 2004.

Peard, Julyan G. Race, Place and Medicine: The Idea of the Tropics in Nineteenth-century Brazilian Medicine. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz. The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870–1930. Trans. Leland Guyer. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

Stepan, Nancy. Picturing Tropical Nature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Teixeira, Rodolfo. Memória histórica da faculdade de medicina do Terreiro de Jesus, 1943–1995. Salvador: EDUFBA, 1999.

                                             Julyan G. Peard