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Osvaldo Gonçalves Cruz

Born 1872
Died 1917

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Brazilian bacteriologist, born August 5, 1872, São Luíz de Parahytinga, Sao Paulo; died February 11, 1917, Petropólis, Rio de Janeiro.

Biography of Osvaldo Gonçalves Cruz

Osvaldo Gonçalves Cruz was the son of the physician and hygienist Bento Gonçalves Cruz. He attended medical school in Rio de Janeiro and gained his MD from the medical faculty in Rio de Janeiro in 1892. His thesis was on waterborne bacteria. He then immediately concentrated his efforts on microbiological research. Brazil at the time still had no bacteriologists of any merit.

In 1896 Cruz went to Paris to continue his studies in experimental medicine in Paris, mainly at the Institut Pasteur. Cruz, returned to Rio de Janeiro in the fall of 1899. Cruz, who detested clinical medicine, first practised as a physician, but also conducted bacteriological studies. Soon he was able to concentrate his efforts in experimental medicine.

In 1902, Cruz became director of the Instituto Serotherapico Federal, usually known as the Instituto Manguinhos, in the outskirts of the city. This small laboratory had been erected privately a few years before. In 1901 it was was taken over by the municipal authorities in Rio to produce plague vaccine and serum to fight an epidemic that had spread from Santos.

From 1903 to 1909, the Serum Therapy Institute becamer an integral part of Brazil's first large-scale and systematic sanitation campaign, in Rio de Janeiro. That year Cruz became director of public health in Rio de Janeiro, where he instituted dramatic reforms greatly improving the sanitary standards. As the «sanitizer» of Rio de janeiro, he rid that city of yellow fever and bubonic plague.

In this work, Cruz faced fierce resistance - the population planned a revolt as he carried out a demolition of houses that represented a health hazard. In 1904, smallpox vaccination became compulsory, but because of opposition many were not vaccinated, and in 1908 the city experienced one of its worst outbreaks of smallpox. The campaigns against yellow fever and the plague, however, were successful. As early as 1906 Cruz reported that yellow fever no longer existed in epidemic form in Rio de Janeiro.

The severity of the health hazards from ywllow fever is illustrated by the fate of the passenger liner "Lombardia". While it was anchored in Rio in 1894, 234 of its 340 passengers had succumbed to the disease.

The institute was the first important center for medical research in Brazil. Cruz and his colleagues here produced a series of outstanding original works on pest, protozoas, bacteriology, hygiene, and entomology. Many of these works were published in the institute's own journal, Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

In 1907 the Serum Therapy Institute became the Institute of Experimental Pathology, and its budget was tripled. That year Cruz was honoured with the gold medal at the International Congress on Hygiene and Demography at Berlin. In 1908 the government honoured Cruz by renameing the institute Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. At this time it had become a «Pasteur Institute», where preparation of vaccines and serums, teaching, and research were combined.

Cruz published thirty-six papers during his lifetime - some describing new species of mosquitoes or diseases caused by protozoa, others concerning measures of prophylaxis against epidemic disease - but scientific writing slowly took second place to organization and teaching. With his young staff he was stern but supportive, stressing the value of both basic and applied research as well as practical hygiene. He was excellent in directing the staff toward fruitful problems for research. To encourage familiarity with foreign work in the field, Cruz instituted regular seminars during which scientific articles in foreign journals were discussed. He created the first library in Latin America that specialized in microbiology, and he supervised the production of glass equipment for the institute. Among the original eight members of the original staff members was Carlos Chagas and Henrique de Rocha Lima.

Although Cruz is not remembered for original contributuions to medicine, he established the first solid institutional base for research in Brazil and assembled a team of outstanding medical researchers. In 1908 the staff began to move to the new and imposing laboratories of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, where research on yellow fever, malaria, leishmaniasis, and other tropical diseases flourished.

After 1908 Cruz was increaslingly incapacitated by renal disease and early in 1916 he retired to Petrópolis, outside Rio de Janeiro. He was appointed mayor, but continued illness soon led him to relinquish his official duties. He died the next year.

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