RIO DE JANEIRO BOTANICAL GARDEN
history of sciences, memories of a city
In Portugal, since half of the 18th Century, the identification and the study of the plants from the colonies were carried out by the Ajuda Botanical Garden, in Lisbon. Its main goal was to research plants with economical profit.
Botany, at the time, was strongly tied to the usefulness of plants, while the agriculture was not a clearly distinct field of knowledge regarding the botanical science. It was usually defined as the "art", i.e., the application of the botanical knowledge. By means of the cultivation and the herborization of species with therapeutic applications, the goal was of identifying and prove their properties. Thus, the first scientific collections of plants were formed. The Botanical Gardens then enhanced their scope of activity, but never abandoned their initial task: the research of the flora.
The plant nurseries and the botanical gardens must be
“Instructed in principles of agriculture; and better yet if possessing the science of botany”
Manuel Arruda Câmara, Speech on the usefulness of the creation of gardens in the main provinces of Brazil, 1810.
The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden opened in 1808, as par of the Portuguese research project and following previous orientations elaborated in Portugal. The first challenge was of acclimatizing the so-called spices from the East: vanilla, cinnamon, pepper and others. Thus, it was initially a place to experiment with plants sent from other Portuguese provinces, and from the La Gabrielle Botanical Garden, in the French Guyana, a territory that had been recently invaded by the Portuguese-Brazilian troops.
Generally speaking, to acclimatize a plant species meant, primarily, to improve the transportation of seeds and sprouts - they were brought from other continents in journeys that took months; afterwards, it was necessary to build tree-beds to seed them, and, finally, to transplant them to the soil in different areas and observe the need of sunlight, shade, water, etc., in each one of them. Since those experience were based on the books written mostly in Europe, it was necessary to research the plants adaptation to the Brazilian soil and climate.
RIO DE JANEIRO BOTANICAL GARDEN
history of sciences, memories of a city
During the reign of John VI, there was a special incentive towards the tillage of Camellia sinensis, from which the black tea is produced. To acquire the necessary knowledge on the tea cultivation, the prince regent brought Chinese experts to Brazil, since the had a millennial knowledge on the cultivation and the processing of the product. The Botanical Garden was the chosen place for the tea plantation, being responsible for all steps from the production until the consumption. In the decades of 1820 and 1830, 340 kg of the leaves were harvested every year. Nevertheless, the main goal on the implementation of this crop was the study and the production of seeds and sprouts to be distributed among the provinces of the Empire, encouraging the tillage of tea leaves for exportation.
When he took office as head of the institution, in 1824, Friar Leandro already had international recognition as Professor of the Academy of Medicine and Surgery and member of many European academies of sciences. The chroniclers of the time told in detail the scene of the friar teaching lessons at the Passeio Público Municipal Park, where, along with the students, many curious passers, to watch his practical lessons in botany. By taking office as director of the Botanical Garden, Friar Leandro carried on with his teaching vocation and aimed at passing his knowledge on natural history to all those who showed interest (especially regarding tea crops) , were they farmers or landowners.
The transfer agreement of the Botanical Garden, a governmental institution, to the Imperial Agriculture Institute of Rio de Janeiro (IIFA - acronym in Portuguese), a private institution agreed not only on the transfer of the institution but also on the transfer of the surrounding lands. The State would provide a yearly subvention to help maintain the public property. In exchange, the IIFA would be obliged to create a rural institute and a practical school of agriculture, while also conserving and improving the terrains and trees of the Botanical Garden, allowing visits on Sundays and holidays. Thus, close to the arboretum, it was created the Normal Farm, whose goals were to develop experimental agronomical research and open the Agricultural Asylum for primary instruction and the teaching of the agricultural work for the orphans of the Holy House of Mercy.
The main goals of the IIFA were educational, technical and scientific. Regarding the first ones, the goal was to link the theoretical lessons to the field practices, for the farmers to abandon the "rudimentary" techniques and adhere to the "modern" ones. The technical and scientific goals were based on the study of the processes in plant life - sprouting, growth and reproduction - and on the scientific experiments, which dealt with the interaction of the complex soil/plant/climate. The objectives were to maximize the crop yields, improve the quality of the products and develop new crops tillage with potential economic return. It was also sought to encourage the use of agricultural instruments and machines on the farms to increase the productivity and to serve as an alternative to the slave labor.
In March, 1890, the federal government separated the Botanical Garden from the IIFA, subordinating it to the Ministry of Agriculture. Under the direction of the botanist João Barbosa Rodrigues, the institution opened the Herbarium, the Library and the Museum, which seems to sign the prominence of the scientific research at the institution. It must be highlighted that, around this time, the agricultural science was becoming an autonomous field, and there were institutions exclusively dedicated to this field being conceived. During his term, Barbosa Rodrigues propelled the scientific research at the institution, opening the herbarium and the library while also reorganizing the greenhouse, the nurseries and the Botanical Museum. To increase the size of the collections, he also created the job of traveler naturalist and improved the exchange with other scientific institutions.
In 1915, the doctor and scientist Antônio Pacheco Leão took office as director of institution, with an extensive professional background including the direction of governmental institutions such as the School of Medicine, where he was also a professor and the Service of Prophylaxis against the Yellow Fever. He was also a member of the Scientific Commission of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute sent to the Amazon Rainforest, headed by Carlos Chagas. With the experience acquired in the previous years, Pacheco Leão was competent enough to put the Botanical Garden at the front of the research done at the time. It is also of this time an initiative to disseminate the results of the research done a the institution. In 1915 the Botanical Garden created the "Archivos do Jardim Botânico" the country's first scientific journal exclusively dedicated to the field of botany.
Apart from the strengthening of the research in taxonomy, it was also during the term of Antônio Pacheco Leão (1915-1931) that it was implemented, by the end of the 1920s, a sector dedicated to the studies on plant anatomy. Under the command of Fernando R. Milanez and Arthur Miranda Bastos, many investigations were carried out, especially regarding the wood structure of some species. In 1936, with this line of research already consolidated, the Botanical Garden organized the First International Meeting of Wood Anatomists. Two years later, the first South-American Botanical Meeting took place, counting with the participation of 40 foreign and Brazilian institutions and 213 scientists.
Hiring traveler naturalists helped to intensify the research at the hills of the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and São Paulo. Some scientists centered their field research at Itatiaia (RJ), a region whose huge biodiversity presented unique characteristics. Nevertheless, they had difficulties to carry on with their research due to the consequences of the human intervention for agricultural and husbandry activities. Thus, they started a campaign towards the preservation of the land. This initiative resulted in the creation, in 1929, of the Itatiaia Biological Station as a unit of the Botanical Garden. The campaign ended up having the bigger purpose of raising the awareness of authorities towards the creation of a National Park resembling the ones that already existed in other countries. Thus, in 1937, the National Park of Itatiaia, the first conservation unit in Brazil, was created.
During the 1930s, another scientific journal was created, the Rodriguésia. Since the new winds in politics pointed towards the idea of popularization and sciences dissemination, “Rodriguésia” was born with a broader scope than the “Archivos” and published articles in fields such as botany, dendrology, agriculture, entomology, genetics, phytogeography and ecology. It initially sought to target a broader audience by means of a simpler language, and it seems to be the first time in the history of the institution – being 127 years old at the time – that the institution adopted a policy of dissemination of scientific information for the public. Nevertheless, within a few years, Rodriguésia would follow the path of most scientific journals and would start to focus on peer-to-peer communication, as it is today.
In 1938, there were administrative changes in the Ministry of Agriculture: The Institute of Plant Biology was closed and the Botanical Garden and the Itatiaia National Park became subject of the new Forest Service. This new agency integrated the botany sections of the former Institute of Plant Biology and the areas of forestry, forest products technology and national parks. A huge change of direction can be seen by the emphasis in plant anatomy, forestry, dendrology and agricultural production. The director of the Institute of Plant Biology and chief editor of Rodriguésia Paulo Campos Porto played an important role in those changes.
In the beginning of the 1940s, there was a movement towards the training of new scientists at the Botanical Garden, an enterprise that would bear fruits towards the consolidation of botany in Brazil. Many universities and government sectors benefitted from it as well as the institution, since they all started hiring human resources trained y Kuhmann, Liberato Barroso and Brade. During this endeavor, many works on botany were published, such as the valuable research “Keys to determine Indigenous and Exotic Genera of the Brazilian Dicotyledons” (Free translation of the title in Portuguese: “Chaves para a Determinação de Gêneros Indígenas e Exóticos das Dicotiledôneas do Brasil”), which was thoroughly tested along the years and published for the first time by Liberato Barroso in 1942.
During the decades of 1960 and 1970, other researchers were incorporated to the scientific team of the Botanical Garden. Most of them carried on with the research lines that were already in progress. Nevertheless, new research fields were created in the new Laboratory of Electronic Microscopy, planned and implemented by Raul D. Machado. Another highlight of the same period is the effort of Graziela M. Barroso in the research and orientation and training of generations of botanists of many Brazilian institutions. Graziela dedicated most of her professional life to the Botanical Garden, having marked deeply the current generation of scientists working at the institution.
In the Botanical Garden’s recent history, more precisely since half of the 1980s, when environmental issues started to build up in the international scenario, the floristic studies were encouraged. The efforts were centered on the creation of inventories on the national conservation units, mainly national parks and biological reserves linked to the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA – acronym in Portuguese). The proposal was conceived according to the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy, a governmental mechanism created in 1989 to guide the preservation, improvement and recovery actions regarding the environment.
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