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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

21. Simón SCHWARTZMAN. A Space for Science. The Development of the Scientific Community in Brazil. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991, 286 p., notes, tables, bibliography, index Cloth: $ 32.50

In the early 1960s Richard Feynman, a U.S. physicist, 1965 Nobel Prize, was a Fulbright visiting professor in Brazil. One of his comments on the experience of teaching university students in Rio de Janeiro was that learning Physics was commiting to memory formulas and information to be recited back on request. All these in spite of the increasing trend in experimentation as the basis of learning that was current at that time. Reading Prof. Schwartzman’s book one realizes that not only the teaching of Physics suffered from this malaise, but that it was part of a tradition that limited the development of science in Brazil until the second half of the XX century. This book tries, very successfully in the opinion of this reviewer, to summarize the development of science in Brazil since colonial times, the struggles of the scientific pioneers and their achievements. There is a combination of resources utilized to produce a general picture of the origins, development and current status, utilizing published materials and interviews with about seventy scientists that have been part of the history.

The book is divided into three sections with ten chapters. The introduction, chapter 1, provides a rationale for the quest of science and the need for its development in conjunction with technology, as well as the requirement of science becoming an integral part of society. Part One is a historical description of the development of science and the scientific community from the eighteenth century until after World War II, including the attempts in the late XVIII century to create a university, the impact of moving the Portuguese imperial court to Brazil with the particular interests of the royal family, the effects on science of the creation of the Republic, and the emphasis in founding universities and research institutes. Part Two deals with the developments from the period after World War II to the early eighties including the growth of the scientific community, the modernization of scientific and technological activities, the patterns of financing science and technology, and the current trends in institutional development. A Space for Science is an excellent introduction to those interested in the development of science in Brazil. It provides a wealth of information through an extensive bibliography and could become a model for development of similar studies in the region, not only of science but of other disciplines as well.