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Brazil Search for Alternatives

The Search for Alternatives
In the "search for alternatives" period in the 1930s, political centralization and the first attempt to provide Brazil with modern administrative, military, and educational institutions took place. The main initiatives included the University of São Paulo (Universidade de São Paulo--USP), which was created in 1934 as the country's first university. Its nucleus was a School of Philosophy, Sciences, and Letters, with professors coming from France, Italy, Germany, and other European countries. The USP also brought together several research and higher education institutions in the state, such as the School of Medicine (Faculdade de Medicina), the Polytechnical School (Escola Politécnica), and the School of Law (Faculdade de Direito). (The Polytechnical School includes civil, electrical, mechanical, mining, metallurgical, naval and oceanographic, and chemical engineering departments.) The USP became and still is Brazil's main academic and research institution. Along the same pattern, a national university, the University of Brazil (Universidade do Brasil), was created in Rio de Janeiro in 1939. Today, it is called the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro--UFRJ). A third university created in Rio de Janeiro in 1935, the University of the Federal District (Universidade do Distrito Federal), was closed down by the federal government a few years later.

This model of institutional modernization was also applied to the rest of the country. Except for the USP and a few sectors at the UFRJ, however, the philosophy schools (Faculdades de Filosofia) functioned as teacher colleges and conducted little or no research. The traditional professional schools remained independent and dedicated to their traditional degree-granting activities.

Deep conceptual differences between the USP and the University of Brazil help to explain the different institutional development. The São Paulo elites created the USP as part of an emerging tradition of cultural enlightenment. By contrast, the University of Brazil was the product of a centralized and authoritarian government, under the direct influence of the more conservative sectors of the Roman Catholic Church.

The first institutions for technological research were created in the 1930s. They included the National Institute of Technology (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia--INT) in Rio de Janeiro and the Institute for Technological Research (Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas--IPT) in São Paulo. They were supposed to provide technical support to an emerging national industry. The INT was involved in the first studies on the use of sugar cane alcohol for engine combustion and coal from Santa Catarina State for the steel industry.

Economic nationalism became dominant by the end of the 1930s. The 1934 Code of Mines declared as government property all resources under the soil; the first steel plant, the National Iron and Steel Company (Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional--CSN), was established in Volta Redonda in 1942, with United States support, and was linked to Brazil's entry into World War II; oil exploration became a state monopoly, and restrictions were placed on foreign and national private interests.

As the federal administration became more centralized and bureaucratized, some of its research institutions suffered. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation went through a crisis for lack of autonomy and support. The INT gradually turned into an agency that merely provided training courses for the public bureaucracy.

Data as of April 1997



About Brazil
Table A. Selected Acronyms and Abbreviations
Table B. Chronology of Important Events
Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors
Extent of Brazil's Borderline Shared by Neighboring Countries and the Atlantic Ocean
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Science and Technology as Modernization, 1945-64
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