On the subject of technology and science in Portugal it is not uncommon to hear that the country is backwards, uncultured, peripheral and lacking a scientific and technological tradition. Attempts at justification of this underdevelopment often invoke difficulties of various sorts, ranging from intellectual to material and human shortcomings. We recall the Portugal of 50 years ago, when the levels of education were extremely low, when there was no industrial base to speak of, and when scientific or technological know-how was severely lacking. But the social and political discourses of Portugal today are replete with phrases such as “technology”, “science”, “scientific and technological culture”. The assimilation of these concepts into the Portuguese vocabulary seems to have begun, in part, when the current government included in its electoral platform an agenda of combating the country’s scientific and technological lag. This program was known as the “technological shock”. It is thus likely that in the minds of the Portuguese people technology will come to be seen as an integral part of the development and progress of the country, with direct social, economic, political, and cultural impacts on their lives. Perhaps the moment of opportunity has arrived for historians of technology to take advantage of the political recognition of the importance of technology, and to begin to take significant steps toward the creation and development of studies in the field.
The introduction in Portugal of the history of technology as a scholarly discipline was very recent, having been created at the beginning of the twenty-first century. By no means is the subject implemented on a national scale, but it is well rooted in the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia – Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCT-UNL, Faculty of Science and Technology – New University of Lisbon) where the discipline was born.
In this report our objective is to examine the genesis and development of teaching and research in the history of technology in Portugal during the period from 1997 to 2008. We eagerly accepted the challenge put forth by the editor of the ICOHTEC Newsletter, Stefan Poser, to give an update on the state of the art of the history of technology in Portugal. At that time, not a single study on this topic has been published. However, some works have recently come out, namely a bibliography and a survey of the historiography of science in Portugal (Simões, Ana, and Tavares, Conceição).
In contrast to other European countries and the United States, studies on the relationship between science, technology and their histories have not had a strong tradition in Portugal. They are neither broadly implemented nor widespread, but, due to international demand, their number has begun to grow. In this work, by no means complete, I hope to offer a few useful insights for those who wish to develop further research into any of the various aspects of the history of technology in Portugal.
A History of Technology program was introduced for the first time in Portugal by the historian of technology Maria Paula Pires dos Santos Diogo in the undergraduate programs of Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Informatics of the FCT-UNL in 1997. In the following year the teaching of the history of technology was extended to the Electronics, the Computer Engineering and the Chemistry programs of the same university. However, prior to this, the discipline of Industrial Archaeology and Industrial Heritage was created by José Amado Mendes at the Humanities Department of the University of Coimbra in 1985. It was added to programs in History, History of Art, Archaeology and Architecture and is still part of these programs. Industrial archaeology and industrial heritage indirectly addresses many topics of the history of technology. The course focused primarily on the sources, the methodology and the theory involved in the documentation, preservation, research, and publicizing of the industrial heritage. However, with respect to the history of technology, special attention was given to the specific technologies of the various industrial revolutions, the production and distribution of energy, transportation, communication, and domestic mechanization. Postgraduate studies in the field of the history of technology began at FCT-UNL in 2004, and thus the discipline of History of Technology became part of the Master in History and Philosophy of Science, created in 1994 within the Department of Science of Education (but currently under the department of Applied Social Sciences). It was the first program of its kind in Portugal. In 1998, I myself benefited from this program as the first student to obtain a Masters degree, based on a thesis entitled A Origem da Indústria Transformadora de Plásticos em Portugal (The Origin of Plastics in Portugal). In the meantime the field has grown so much that a doctoral program in History, Philosophy and Industrial heritage of the Science and Technology will be offered at FCT-UNL in autumn 2008. The curriculum will consist of the disciplines of History of Technology, History of Science and Technology in Portugal, and Philosophy of Science and Technology. In many of the country’s universities, the history of technology is part of the BA courses, masters, and doctoral programs in departments of philosophy and history. However, history of technology is largely a discipline in these institutions and often taught merely optional. Examples include the programs at many public universities, such as the University of Évora, with its undergraduate licensing in Physics and Chemistry with specialization in Museology of Science, Technology, and History, the Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (FCUL, Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon) with its Masters in History and Philosophy of Sciences or the Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas – Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Faculty of Social and Human Sciences – New University of Lisbon) with a Doctorate in History and Theory of Scientific Ideas. Private universities are engaged in the history of science and technology as well: for example the Universidade Lusíada, Lisboa (Lusíada University, Lisbon) conferring with an undergraduate degree in Arts. At another private university, the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Lisboa (Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies), history of technology is part of the undergraduate licensing program in Chemistry; the discipline of the History of Science and Technology was established in 2001 and chaired by myself. At both the undergraduate and graduate level the FCT-UNL has been the only institution which made courses in the history of technology compulsory in several programs. To summarize: Although in Portugal there is no department exclusively dedicated to teaching and research in the history of technology, the discipline is alive and growing.
In Portugal, research on the history of technology is carried out by a small but very active specialized academic community. There is a clear willingness of these researchers to bring the history of technology in Portugal to a level on par with the work being done in the field internationally. There are several indicators that corroborate this tendency, not only visible in terms of national and international publications, but also on the level of conferences on the History of Technology. The most important conferences are the ICOHTEC Symposium, hosted in 1998 by the FCT-UNL, and the commemoration of 50 years of Society for History of Technology (SHOT) to be held in Lisbon in October of 2008, locally organized by Maria Paula Diogo. The epicentre of the history of technology in Portugal is surely the FCT-UNL, but there also is an important group of researchers of the history of technology, emerging from fields including economic history, social history, archaeology, museology, sociology, and engineering, dispersed throughout various institutions, ranging from universities to research centers. Today, there are three research centers in Portugal, devoted to the History of Science and Technology, formally recognized and funded by the Fundação da Ciência e da Tecnologia (FCT, Science and Technology Foundation): The Center for Research in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (founded in 1994 under the name Center for Research in Applied Social Sciences, CICSA), and the Center of the History of the Sciences at FCUL (created in 2003), both established in Lisbon, and the Center of Studies of the History and Philosophy of Science (CEHFC-UE) in Évora (established in 1994). Today, the two centers in Lisbon are in the process of merging due to a desire among the interdisciplinary group of academics from various universities and other associated institutions to foster a closer cooperation. Several institutions have acquired considerable funding for research projects in which the history of technology is prominent. The topics which most captured the attention of the community of technology historians in the 1990s included:
The history of engineering in Portugal in the 19th and 20th century (PhD thesis, Maria Paula Diogo, 1994);
Science, technology, and industrial development in Portugal in the 19th century (PhD thesis, Ana Cardoso de Matos, 1997); and
The historical and technological Development of the Portuguese plastics industry (MSc thesis, Maria Elvira Callapez, 1998).
The doctoral thesis of Maria Paula Diogo (chair of the discipline of history of technology at the FCT-UNL) can be seen as a point of departure for studies on the history of engineering. It was the first of its kind in Portugal and focused on Portuguese civil engineers as a professional group. Studies on the history of engineering as well on teaching as on its professional development have expanded in Portugal. For example, a project of national scope brought together a group of economists, historians, sociologists and engineers in 2003 in order to study the historical development of engineering in Portugal. The intention was to understand and publicize the history of technology from various perspectives, including foreign influences. The themes ranged from classical subjects as ports, mines, metallurgy, electricity, chemistry, automobile, energy, and environment to systems of information and communication. As a result, an exposition was held in 2003 in Lisbon, entitled “Engenho e Obra: Engenharia em Portugal no Século XX”, (Inventiveness and Work: Engineering in Portugal in the 20th Century); two books and various articles were published. This exposition received SHOT’s Dibner Award in 2003. At the turn of the century various topics generated substantial interest among historians of Portuguese technology. Maria Paula Diogo’s group at the Center for Research in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology in Lisbon has developed research not only at the national but also an international level of comparison.
History of Technology and History of Engineering in the Portuguese African Empire (Angola and Mozambique – 18th to 20th century),
Popularization of Science and Technology in Portugal (18th to 20th century) and
Science, Technology, and Empire.
In cooperation with other scholars abroad, mainly European, they collaborate on the projects of Engineering and Scientific Culture in Catalonia and Spain and in the Research Group Tensions of Europe – Technology in the Making of the 20th Century Europe. On transfer of technology are to mention some recent works with emphasis on the international mechanisms of the transfer of technology in the PVC industry (PhD thesis, Maria Callapez, 2002) and on the Automobile Industry (PhD student Maria Luísa Sousa). On the subject of the technology of telecommunications (electric telegraph, telephone, and radiotelegraphy), Ana Paula Lopes da Silva, Center of Research in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Lisbon, completed her PhD thesis in 2008. António Lameira, Center of Research in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Lisbon, analyses urbanism and communication as paths towards modernization in the construction of the Portuguese empire in Africa, especially in Mozambique, from a technological point of view.
There is also an increasing number of projects in the field of the history of technology. New approaches and subjects in the history of technology are coming from scholars outside the field as well. The History of Energy (published in 2005, as the culmination of a project involving historians of economy, industry, and technology, coordinated by the economic historian Nuno Madureira), along with The History of Electricity (published in 1993 by Mário Mariano, electronic engineer, in which he explores the origins of electrification in Portugal and its social impact), are two important examples of works attaining success in the field of history of technology. Álvaro Ferreira da Silva, another economic historian, has carried out significant research into sanitation technology in Lisbon since the 19th century and in 2006 published The History of Informatics in Portugal, in which he traces the development of the informatics sector from a primarily economic perspective, but he was also concerned with the history of technology. Another example: Adelaide Manuela da Costa Duarte, doctoral student at the University of Coimbra, researches in Museology and Industrial Archeology as they relate to science and technology (Museu Nacional da Ciência e da Técnica, 1971-1976, published in 2007). Equally important in the field of the history of technology has been the work on the History of Photography in Portugal in the 19th Century by Alexandre Ramires (doctoral thesis in the Faculty of Letters of Coimbra). In Industrial Archaeology there is an interest in supporting the preservation of the historic materials related to the science and technology of Portugal, as evidenced in the project Production and Technology of Roman Ceramics in Bracara Augusta by José Virato Capela (Social Sciences Institute – University of Minho).
Other projects show new approaches to the history of technology that focus on the social implications of technological change. For instance, Rui Miguel Loureira Nobre Baptista analyses the manner in which studying technology at a university in Portugal influenced the society and promoted processes of technological change, in an effort to deepen our understanding of the development of engineering and the advance of diffusion of technology throughout the 20th century (Center of Studies in Innovation, Technology, and Development Policies – Technical University of Lisbon – Superior Technical Institute). Sofia Bento discusses technological controversies based on a case study on the Alqueva Dam (Interdisciplinary Area – History of Science and Technology of the Socius-Center of Research in Economic and Organizational Sociology). In the area of popularization of technology, Rosa Maria Carvalho Espada, Center of Research in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Lisbon, analyses the publicizing of Technology in Scientific Periodicals.
To summarize: In Portugal a substantial quantity of research projects on the history of technology is in progress. In the future there can be expected more proposals coming from new approaches, new methodologies and new tendencies, owing to the increasing internationalization of research in Europe and the United States in both disciplines - the history of science and the history of technology.
Despite the current lack of a national museum of technology in Portugal historians of technology are able to find ample material for studying in many national, regional, local, and private museums that reflect the national development of technology and science. The first and only Museu Nacional de Ciência e da Técnica (National Museum of Science and Technics, or MNCT) – from 2002 to be known as Museu Nacional da Ciência e da Técnica Doutor Mário Silva – was created in 1971 in the city of Coimbra, officially inaugurated in 1976, and is now closed. The museum was a project of Mário Augusto da Silva, a distinguished Coimbrian physicist, who completed his doctoral studies under Nobel laureate Madame Marie Curie in the early twentieth century. However, from the beginning the museum lacked the financial resources for achieving the degree of autonomy that would have allowed a role as “central institution”. In the attempt to “revitalize” the MNCT, the Instituto para a História da Ciência e da Técnica (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, or IHCT) was created in 1999 as an annex to the museum. Due to financial difficulties the IHCT became defunct in 2002 and was renamed Museo Nacional da Ciência e da Técnica Doutor Mário Silva. Three years later, in 2005, the museum was again defunct and integrated into the Museu do Conhecimento (Museum of Knowledge), an institution that encompassed all of the museological activities of the University of Coimbra. But in 2006 the Museu Nacional da Ciência e da Técnica was closed, foreseeing that the museum of science at the University of Coimbra and other national museums, under a broader project known as Museus das Ciências (Museums of the Sciences) established by the government in 2004, would inherit its diverse collection, distributed across the various fields of science and technology, namely those of physics, medicine, mathematics calculus and automation, graphic arts, and industrial as well as domestic technology.
There are various institutions in Portugal, such as the Associação de Arqueologia Industrial (Association of Industrial Archeology), the Rede de Museus Portugueses (Network of Portuguese Museums), the Instituto do Património Português (Institute of the Portuguese Cultural Heritage), the Associação MC2P – Museus e Centros de Ciência de Portugal (MC2P Association – Museums and Centers of Science of Portugal, which on their websites offer a detailed insight in the cultural heritage preserved by the nation’s museums dispersed throughout the Norte, Centro, Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira regions. The Associação de Arqueologia Industrial, for example, classifies the museums as Museums of science, technology and industry, of farm and food products, of milling technology, of the transforming sector; of the extractive sector; of communication and transportation, and of collective equipments.
In the category of science, technology and industry, I will point out the example of the Museu da Indústria (Museum of Industry), formerly known as the Museu da Ciência e da Indústria (Museum of Science and Industry). Situated in Porto, the museum aims to study and publicize the industrial heritage of Porto. It is currently preparing a permanent exhibition entitled Cidade e a Indústria (City and Industry). The exhibition will illustrate the process of industrialization in Greater Porto from the end of the 18th century to the 20th century as well as the development of technology, the growth of the city and the protagonists of Porto’s history. These ranged from businessmen to the immigrants and working masses that arrived in the city, searching for a new life, and to the entrepreneurs of the Estado Novo (New State, the dictatorial regime from 1933 to 1974) protected by its corporate system. The museum’s collection is comprised of hundreds of artifacts, some produced towards the end of the 19th century (especially those that represent the milling sector), but the majority of artifacts dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, most of them imported from England, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. Also in this category the Municipal Eco-museum of Seixal hosts a permanent exhibit on the region, which preserves, interprets, and promotes archaeological, historical, technical, and industrial legacies, and river-maritime culture. The Museum of Watches in the city of Serpa, Alentejo, is the only one on the Iberian Peninsula; it preserves a collection of more than 1600 watches. Uniquely, the Virtual Museum of the Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil (LNEC, National Laboratory of Civil Engineering), Lisbon, is available 24 hours a day. This museum consists of images of the equipment which scientifically and technologically represent the role played by LNEC in the construction of dams, in seismic engineering, and in informatics. In the fields of communication and transportation, Portugal boasts of more than a dozen museums including the Rail Museum, the Radio Museum, the National Museum of Press/Journals and the Graphic Arts Museum, the Aeronautical Museum and the Marine Museum as well as the Museum of Pico/Whaling Industry Museum in the Azores. Established at the end of the 1950s, the Automobile Museum of Caramulo displays the technological development of the automobile; the collection includes a 1889 Peugeot still functioning. The in situ Museum of Gun Powder in Oeiras presents the history of the factory (dating to the 15th century) and the development of the manufacturing process. The breadth of museums extends still further to other modalities. For example, the Museological Nucleus of Natural Saltpeter in Rio Maior, the Tidal Windmill of Corroios, the Textile Museum of the University of Beira Interior, the Museum of Archaeology, and the Museum of Glass offer many artifacts and information which are of interest for historians of technology.
Concerning the history of the supply of electric energy and gas lighting in Lisbon, the collection of the Museum of Electricity, located in the Central Tejo building, an “architectural landmark in the city of Lisbon” is invaluable. The building itself constitutes the nucleus of the permanent exhibition which shows how this historic thermoelectric center functioned. This museum established strong ties with academic institutions and researchers in Portugal. Owing to the strength and availability of the museum’s ample historical-documental archive, many historical research projects were established; most notably are the publications on topics related to the history of the Portuguese electric sector. For example, O Porto e a Electricidade (Porto and Electricity); A Electricidade em Portugal:dos Primórdios à II Guerra Mundial (Electricity in Portugal: From the Origins to the Second World War); Imagens do Gás – As CRGE e a Produção e Distribuição de Gás em Lisboa (Images of Gas – The CRGE and the Production and Distribution of Gas in Lisbon). The EDP Foundation, which directs the museum, currently aims to enlarge its research center, attracting new researchers, focused on energy and the environment.
Concerning the history of water supply in Lisbon, the Museum of Water dates back to 1919 and was remodeled in 1987. It preserves four monuments: the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Águas Livres Aqueduct); the Reservatório da Mãe d´Água das Amoreiras (Mãe d´Água das Amoreiras Reservoir); the Reservatório da Patriarcal (Patriarcal Reservoir); and the Estação Elevatória a Vapor dos Barbadinhos (Barbadinhos Steam Pump Station). In 1990, this museum won the Museum of the Year award of the Council of Europe. (Also) Significant in Portugal are several museums dedicated to the history of science. The Museu de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (Museum of the Sciences, University of Lisbon) houses more than 10,000 pieces of historic scientific equipment, most of them dating back to the 19th and 20th century. Within the museum, the Laboratorio Chimico, probably that last of the great chemistry laboratories of the 19th century extant in Europe, was recently restored and inaugurated. In addition, the Museu de Física da Universidade de Coimbra (Museum of Physics, University of Coimbra) contains a valuable permanent exhibition of rare scientific and didactic instruments of Physics of the 18th and the 19th century.
The majority of these museums are open to the public throughout the year. Many also offer library services and guided tours. To summarize: There is a wealth of museums in Portugal which testify to the richness of the scientific, technological, archaeological, and industrial cultural heritage of the country, which merit analysis and studies by a community of historians of technology. Nevertheless, it might be more productive if there was a National Museum of Science and Technology to coherently direct and coordinate the preservation and presentation of technological heritage (archives, instruments, machines, etc.) dispersed throughout the country.
Associations and Journals
In Portugal there is no association dedicated exclusively to the history of technology. The community of Portuguese professional historians of technology, or, rather, the group of those holding Masters or Doctoral degrees in the field, is very small. Officially those who conclude masters or doctoral theses in subjects in the domain of history of technology obtained their degrees in the História e Filosofia das Ciências – Especialidade Epistemologia das Ciências (History and Philosophy of Sciences – Specialty in Epistemology of Sciences) at FCT-UNL.
However, there is the Associação de Arqueologia Industrial (Association of Industrial Archaeology), created in 1980 with the objective of studying aspects of archaeology and history as well as the heritage of industry, on both the national and the international level. The association has at its disposal the journal Arqueologia & Indústria (Archaeology and Industry), founded in July 1998 for publicizing its work. The journal publishes peer-reviewed articles, news and reviews in Portuguese, French, English, Spanish, and Italian. However, its last edition appears to have been published in 1999.
More recently, HoST, an international online journal, explicitly devoted to the history of science and technology, was launched in 2007 by the Centro de História das Ciências da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (Center of History of Sciences at FCUL). According to its editors, HoST aims to explore the cultural and social dimensions of science and technology in history across the world. It is a peer-review publication, published in English twice a year. In this way the centre contributes to the development of history of science and technology and the publication will surely be welcome by the community.
An emerging interest in the knowledge of the Portuguese technological and scientific past has attracted many researchers to study the field of history of science and technology. The bibliographies, lists of projects supported by the FCT, the lists of theses (both concluded and in progress), demonstrate how much work has been done. In addition to a new generation of historians of technology, the field has also experienced an influx of social science historians from various Portuguese universities, interested in traditional technical questions, in topics such as engineering, industry, colonies, and museums. Today, the community of Portuguese professionals in the history of technology is growing, but it is difficult to know precisely how many we are, due to the fact that in some academic departments, without courses in the history of technology, a number of students can be found who are preparing doctoral theses in the field of the history of technology.
Within the past 10 years a new generation of professional historians of technology emerged. The history of technology is no longer seen as a mere “academic sport” of amateurs. Although the field continues to grow and develop, several problems remain to be solved. Our libraries, archives and historical sources have yet to be equipped for serious research in the area, despite the efforts of some institutions to organize their dispersed and abandoned archives. Thus great efforts are needed to preserve historical artefacts, whether they are written sources or instruments related to the science and technology of Portugal. It must be recognized that the area has progressed in Portugal, even with limited access to online journals, archives, and organized information, and, to a certain extent, the lack of support of a local scientific community.
Regarding the development of institutions, the history of technology has not expanded. There are only a few prospects to set up more positions in universities, industries, and museums to absorb the growing number of doctoral students. Sadly, none of the students come to obtain permanent positions in any Portuguese university upon graduating in the history of science and technology! There is no demand for courses nor for graduate professionals in the history of technology.
We believe that the academic community and the industrial community will show a change of attitude in realizing the importance of studies on technology, industrial heritage, equipment and the social impact of technology. A new generation of researchers of the history of technology waits for such a change. The international promotion of the history of Portuguese technology has been carried out by way of international conferences, doctoral and post-doctoral studies abroad and the international circulation of and collaboration on research projects. Recently, works are beginning to be produced by Portuguese researchers on topics in the history of technology not exclusively dedicated to Portugal. The field has begun to gather strength, but there remains a long road ahead.
I would like to thank Ana Simões, Ana Paula Silva, Carlos Fiolhais, Conceição Tavares, José Amado Mendes, Maria Paula Diogo and Nuno Madureira for providing me with meaningful information for this essay. I would also like to thank Beau Davenport and Mario Juncosa for help with the English language.
Fundação da Ciência e da Tecnologia (FCT, Science and Technology Foundation) - FCT’s mission consists in continuously promoting the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge in Portugal, exploring opportunities that become available in any scientific or technological domain to attain the highest international standards in the creation of knowledge, and to stimulate their diffusion and contribution to improve education, health, environment and the quality of life and well-being of the general public. This mission is mainly accomplished through financial aid granted by institutions, research teams or individuals in public open calls, and also through cooperation agreements and other forms of support in partnership with universities and other public or private institutions. The results of the activities of FCT are, in essence, the additional contributions of individuals, research groups and institutions who have been awarded financing. (In:http://alfa.fct.mctes.pt/fct.phtml.en).
Bibliography and References:
José Maria Brandão de Brito et al: Engenho e Obra. Uma abordagem à história da Engenharia em Portugal no século XX. Dom Quixote, Lisboa 2002. Adelaide Manuela da Costa Duarte: O Museu Nacional da Ciência e da Técnica (1971-1976). Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra2007. Ana Delicado: Os Museus e a Promoção da Cultura Científica em Portugal. In: Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, No. 51 (2006), pp. 53-72. Maria Paula Diogo/ Ana Cardoso de Matos: Being an engineer in the European Periphery: three case studies on Portuguese engineering. In: History of Technology, 27 (2007), pp.125-146. Nuno Luís Madureira, (coord.): A História da Energia. Portugal 1890-1980. Livros Horizonte, Lisboa 2005. Álvaro Ferreira da Silva: Una máquina imperfecta: Tecnología sanitaria en Lisboa en la segunda mitad del siglo xix. In: Antonio Lafuente, Ana Cardoso de Matos e Tiago Saraiva (eds.): Maquinismo Ibérico. Doce Calles, Madrid 2007, pp. 371-400. Ana Simões, Ana Carneiro, Maria Paula Diogo: Perspectives on Contemporary History of Science in Portugal. Centro de História das Ciências, Lisbon 2007. Conceição Tavares, Henrique Leitão: Bibliografia de História da Ciência em Portugal 2000-2004. Centro de História das Ciências – Universidade de Lisboa, CHC-UL, Lisbon 2006.