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Ribeiro Santos, Carlos


(b. Lisbon, Portugal, 21 December 1813; d. Lisbon, 23 December 1882)

engineering, geology.

Ribeiro was the eldest of the five children of José Joaquin Ribeiro, who was employed in the silver foundry of the Lisbon mint, and Francisca Santos. The family was poor, and Ribeiro received only the rudiments of a primary education before he went to work in a haberdashery at the age of ten. In 1833, during the War of the Two Brothers, Ribeiro enlisted, on 4 August, in the artillery and on 5 September of that year volunteered for service in the constitutionalist forces, thus severing himself from the absolutist views of his parents. When the bloody civil conflict came to an end the following year, Ribeiro entered the Lisbon military college, from which the graduated as a commissioned officer in 1837. He remained in the army for the rest of his life, being promoted general a few weeks before he died.

Ribeiro began his geological researches in 1840. He was the first major Portuguese geologist, and gave expert advice on a number of subjects. In 1848 he served as director of a number of coal mines and in 1852, under a commission from the ministry of public works, he organized the section of mines, quarries, and geological works, founded the national mining service, and established the national geological survey. In 1854 he drew up a plan for supplying the city of Lisbon with water, and two years later he was concerned in linking the railroad between Portugal and Spain at the Elvas-Badajoz frontier. In August 1857 Ribeiro founded the commission for geological works and in November of the same year he organized the first topographical survey of Portugal, on a scale of 1:500,000. He himself had been the first to recognize the stratigraphic succession of the country, and the survey aided him in his own later geological studies. Ribeiro also served as secretary of the council on mines when it was created in 1859 and in 1865 was a councillor. In 1874 he became superintendent of the copper mines of Alijustrel.

In 1874 Ribeiro was elected a deputy to parliament, and took an active part in political affairs. In addition to his interest in national and geological matters, Ribeiro was concerned with early man; from 1866 to 1868 he undertook a study to ascertain the antiquity of man in Portugal, and he was one of the organizers of the Ninth International Congress of Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology that was held in Lisbon in 1880. He received many academic and other honors and at the time of his death belonged to a number of organizations, including the Lisbon Royal Academy of Sciences, the Coimbra Institute, and the Imperial and Royal Geology Institute of Vienna. He was survived by his wife, Ursula Damascio, whom he had married in 1846.


I. Original Works. For a partial list of Ribeiro’s memoris, see Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific papers, V, 183; VIII, 742; XI, 165; XVIII, 166. His books include Indicazioni relative alla Commissione de geologia nel Portogallo (Milan, 1865); Estudos geologicos (Lisbon, 1866); Memoria sobre o abastecimento de Lisboa com aguas de nascente e aguas de rio (Lisbon, 1868); Relatorio sobre as minas de pyrite de ferro cuprica das cercanias da villa de Alijustrel e das minas do Sobral (Lisbon, 1873); and Estudos prehistoricos em Portugal, 2 vols. (Lisbon, 1878–1880).

II. Secondary Literature. There are obituaries of Ribeiro by A. F. Loureiro, in Instituto, 2nd ser., 30 (1882–1883), 193–205; by J. F. Nery Delgado, in Neues Jahrbuch fur Mineralogie, Geologie und Palaontologie, 2 (1883), 1–4, supp.; P. Choffat, in Bulletin de la Societe geologique de France, 11 (1883), 321–329; the latter two also contain a bibliography of Ribeiro’s works. See also C. Castello Branco, O general Carlos Ribeiro (recordacoes da mocidade) (Porto, 1884); R. Severo, “Carlos Ribeiro,” in Revista de sciencias natuaes e sociaes, 5 (1898), 153–177; S. A., “Rerum naturalium in Lusitania cultores Carlos Ribeiro,” inBroteria, 2 (1903), 93–97; J. S. Tavares, “Osnaturalistas portugueses: Carlos Ribeiro,” in Revista de obras publicas e minas, 36 (1905), 1–59; and P. Choffat, “Biographies de geologes portugais. Carlos Ribeiro,” in Communicaçöes Serviços geològicos de Portugal, 11 (1917), 275–281.

J. M. LÓpez de Azcona

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