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Vargas, José María (1786–1854)

Vargas, José María (1786–1854)

José María Vargas (b. 10 March 1786; d. 13 July 1854), physician and president of Venezuela (1834–1836). Born in Puerto de la Guaira, Venezuela, Vargas excelled in his studies in philosophy, theology, and medicine at the Royal Pontifical University in Caracas. He continued his medical studies at the University of Caracas (1808). With the fall of the First Republic, he was taken prisoner and then released in 1813. In 1814, he traveled to Edinburgh and London to pursue his medical education, becoming proficient in anatomy, surgery, chemistry, and botany. He returned to Venezuela in 1825 and by 1827 was appointed rector of the Central University by Simón Bolívar. While serving as the university's rector, Vargas founded the faculties of anatomy, surgery, and chemistry.

In 1834, he reluctantly accepted the nomination for the nation's presidency, which he won. Several months after he became president, the military's Las Reformas Revolution broke out (June 1835). Vargas was taken prisoner and expelled from the country. But José Antonio Páez defeated the "reformists," and Vargas was returned to power in August.

Vargas is fondly remembered for continuing to see patients on a medical basis while serving as president. During his short term, Vargas extended education to all youngsters, founded a national library, and promulgated a new legal code. Citing poor health, he resigned in 1836. Returning to academia, he traveled to New York, where in 1853 he unsuccessfully sought a cure for an eye ailment. He died while in New York.

See alsoMedicine: The Modern Era .


Blas Bruni Celli, La Hora de Vargas (1986) and Imagen y huella de José Vargas (1987).

Francisco Linares Alcántara, Vargas: Apoteosis del siglo XIX (1986).

Augusto Márquez Cañizales, José María Vargas (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Agüero Gorrín, Enrique, Bolívar y Vargas: Bolívar, padre de la legislación médica venezolana: Vargas, padre de la medicina científica venezolana. Caracas: s.n., 2003.

Caballero, Miguel, and Sheila Salazar, Diez grandes poleémicas en la historia de Venezuela. Caracas: Fondo Editorial 60 Años, 1999.

                     Allan S. R. Sumnall InÉs Quintero

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