Oswaldo Cruz

Date: 1908
Owner: Casa de Oswaldo Cruz
Source Type: Images


This cartoon depicts Dr. Oswaldo Cruz (1872-1917) as a national hero lionized for his contributions to Brazilian medicine (and a germ cowering away from him). Cruz was on the cutting edge of microbiological research, a field that promised to exculpate the tropics as a whole from the idea that tropical diseases were inherent in the people and climate of Brazil. By working with bacteria and parasites, doctors like Cruz could identify tangible sources of many illnesses that explained the population's supposed laziness (the result of anemia). Within a few years of Carlos Finlay's and Walter Reed's identification of mosquitoes as yellow fever's vector, the Brazilian government hired Cruz to lead the nation's first public health campaign. By 1906, Cruz and his team had eliminated the Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for the disease from major urban areas in Brazil and thus dramatically reduced the spread of yellow fever.

His success made Cruz a medical celebrity and he used his influence to found a modern laboratory to fight tropical diseases. Later renamed the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, the research center predated the first Brazilian research universities by over twenty years and was instrumental in giving Brazilian scientists a sense that they were even more qualified to deal with local maladies than European specialists in tropical medicine. In the early twentieth century, the Cruz institute merged applied science with research while training a new generation of scientists and promulgating modern scientific practices throughout Brazil. It remains an important center for public health research and education to this day.

Reference: Stepan, Nancy Leys. Beginnings of Brazilian Science: Oswaldo Cruz, Medical Research and Policy, 1890-1920. Sagamore Beach, MA: Watson Publishing International, 1981.

CITATION: Casa de Oswaldo Cruz.