Indigenous Medicine, African and Jesuit


  • Posted on: 6 December 2018
  • By: claudio

And in Brazil, how did the lying down position for childbirth come to reign?

After 1500 and until the arrival of D. João VI to Brazil, the existing medicine was Indian, African and Jesuit. The rare physicians and surgeons that came here were most commonly “new Christians” coming from the metropolis.

The Dutch invaders published the first treaty of Brazilian pathology and therapeutics, written in 1648 by Willem Piiso.

With the arrival of the royal family and the opening of our ports, travelling naturalists also came, like Von Martius and Saint-Hilaire. They travelled through Brazil researching the properties of native plants and advising on the benefits of their usage.

On this same year the University courses of “Medicine, Pharmacy and Childbirth” were created, offering the titles of Doctor, Pharmacist and Midwife.

In 1866 Brazilian Medicine is considered to have turned scientific with the “Tropicalista Bahiana School”, where Wucherer Paterson and Silva Lima study the ancylostomiasis, filariasis, snake bites and beriberi.

After Independence the influence of the French medicine establishes itself. The books in French are translated to Portuguese. That influence continues to exist until after the Second World War, when it is substituted by American influence.

Obstetrics is practiced by midwives. Foreign midwives come to the cities, almost all of them French. In the South they are German.

From the well known obstetrician Professor Doctor Fernando de Magalhães, renowned obstetrician of the Rio de Janeiro School, we have a text that illustrates the position of Brazilian knowledge at the time, published in 1928 on the Revista de Antropofagia year 1, n° 2:


The renowned obstetrician, teacher, academician and speaker Dr. Fernando de Magalhães was in São Paulo a few days ago, where he spoke on feminism, gave lessons of obstetrics and gave an interview.

That interview deserves to be known. Dr. Fernando made the enthusiastic apology for the Sociedade Brasileira de Educação. Very useful, with public utility, etc.

The proof, is here, in his own words:

“The Association’s Library – he stressed – is on of the most perfect in order and method of organization. One of its sections, for instance, children’s books, demanded enormous shrewdness and intelligence. It was necessary to promote research among the children, to know which were their favorite books, with wonderful results. A twelve year old child, for instance, when asked which was his favorite book, answered: “Lusíadas” of Camões.

Well, well, well, is this a prank?

A twelve year old child is so stupid as to choose Camões instead of Conan Doyle? Is that what is called wonderfull results?

Dr. Fernando was kidding us.

A boy that delights in Camões as if it were an pineapple lollipop in not a boy at all, it’s a monster. But what a monster: it’s a collection.

It was for boys like that the hard-soled slippers were invented, and not only for the naughty ones.

It makes us sad to see that it is a Brazilian phenomenon. In school the Indian boys hear from their wise teachers that Brazil was discovered by chance and the Camões is a genius.

The boys grow up sure of those truths.

From there comes the immense damage: the country was discovered by chance, it is fair that it will continue to be left to chance happenings. Even because we don’t have time to waste fooling around. Camões absorbs all of our moments of intelligence.

The anthropophagy that comes from the birth of this land (there is a bandeirante’s will written in a manuscript leaf from the Lusíadas of Camões), hungrily devouring the nation’s generations; in turn it needs to be eaten too.

It is urgent to put such a fat oxen in the Brazilian Anaconda’s mouth. And the Sociedade Brasileira de Educação should serve as an appetizer.

The desert will be Dr. Fernando, that is a sweet and fine dessert.”


Antonio de Alcantara Machado