Since no true university was established in Brazil until 1920, any study of Brazilian higher education prior to that time must necessarily focus on the professional schools created in the nineteenth century. Until the polytechnical institutes were created in the late years of that century only the faculties of medicine and law provided the prestige, training, and personal contacts associated with university studies. Hundreds of Brazilian deputies, senators, provincial presidents, and governors, for example, were trained originally as physicians, and a thorough study of medical education obviously would have major significance.

In the last four years Francisco Bruno Lobo, longtime catedrático of histology of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, and an avid and talented historian as well, has published three volumes of documents that will be indispensable to any one studying the origins of higher education in Brazil, especially medical education. In 1964 he published his two-volume work O ensino da medicina no Rio de Janeiro (the first half of which had previously appeared in Vol. 260 of Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de Rio de Janeiro). This first volume presents numerous documents from the early years of the Faculdade de Medicina de Rio de Janeiro with emphasis on the years 1832-1854. A number are published here for the first time, and some are drawn from the recently reorganized archive of the medical school. The second volume contains the extant relatorios or annual reports submitted each March to the Minister of Empire by the director of the medical school. Included are those from 1832 to 1854, except for the years 1837, 1839, 1840, and 1843, of which no copy is known.

In 1967 Bruno Lobo published Vol I of Uma universidade no Rio de Janeiro, which like O ensino da medicina reflects his interest in medicine, but is devoted principally to reprinting some twenty-five nineteenth-century projetos and pareceres. All of these argue the need for the immediate creation of universities in Brazil. Unquestionably the most important of these proposals was Ruy Barbosa’s famous reforma de ensino of 1882, which, while generally not adopted into law at the time, has exterted a major influence on subsequent proposals for educational reform even up to the present day. Other projetos included are ones by José Bonifácio, the revered “patriarch of independence,” and Dr. Domingos José Freire, who enjoyed undeserved and brief international notoriety from 1880 to 1900 as the first in a long line of microbiologists who wrongly claimed to have discovered the “germ” of yellow fever.

For scholars interested in the history of medicine and higher education in Brazil there are many facts to be gleaned from these three volumes. Uma universidade is most likely to be of general interest. Their utility would have been increased through stricter attention to conventional scholarly apparatus, such as fully identifying the provenance of all documents, especially the manuscripts, and adding an analytical index and bibliography of works cited. Still it is to be hoped that Bruno Lobo will continue this useful series, and that he or other scholars will provide similar documentary collections for the Faculdade de Medicina de Bahia, the law schools, and the polytechnical institutes. Only through the study of such works can scholars really explain the surprising fact that Brazil was one of the last major countries in the world to establish universities.