Oswaldo Cruz

Last updated
Oswaldo Gonçalves Cruz
Osvaldo Goncalves Cruz.tif
BornAugust 5, 1872
DiedFebruary 11, 1917(1917-02-11) (aged 44)
Alma mater Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Scientific career
Institutions Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

Oswaldo Gonçalves Cruz, better known as Oswaldo Cruz (Portuguese pronunciation:  [ozˈvawdu ˈkɾus] ; August 5, 1872 in São Luís do Paraitinga, São Paulo province, Brazil – February 11, 1917 in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro state), was a Brazilian physician, pioneer bacteriologist, epidemiologist and public health officer and the founder of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute. [1]


He occupied the fifth chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters from 1912 until his death in 1917. [2]

Early years

Oswaldo Gonçalves Cruz was born on August 5, 1872 in São Luis do Paraitinga, a small city in São Paulo Province, to the physician Bento Gonçalvez Cruz and Amália Bulhões Cruz. As a child, he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family. At the age of 15 he started to study at the Faculty of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro and in 1892 he graduated as medical doctor with a thesis on water as vehicle for the propagation of microbes. Inspired by the great work of Louis Pasteur, who had developed the germ theory of disease, four years later he went to Paris to specialize in bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute, which gathered the great names of this branch of science of that time. He was financed by his father-in-law, a wealthy Portuguese merchant.


Work in Brazil

Cruz found the seaport of Santos ravaged by an epidemic of bubonic plague that threatened to reach Rio de Janeiro and engaged himself immediately in the combat of this disease. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro authorized the construction of a plant for manufacturing the serum against the disease which had been developed at the Pasteur Institute by Alexandre Yersin and coworkers. He asked the institution for a scientist who could bring to Brazil this know-how. The Pasteur Institute responded that such a person was already available in Brazil: Dr. Oswaldo Cruz.

On May 25, 1900, the Federal Serum Therapy Institute destined to the production of sera and vaccines against the bubonic plague was created with Baron Pedro Afonso as director general and the young bacteriologist Oswaldo Cruz as technical director. The new institute was established in the old farm of Manguinhos at the western shores of Guanabara Bay. In 1902, Cruz accepted the office of director general of the institute and soon expanded the scope of its activities, now no longer restricted to the production of sera but also dedicated to basic and applied research and to the building of human resources. In the following year, Cruz was appointed director general of Public Health, a position corresponding to today's Brazilian Minister of Health.

Using the Federal Serum Therapy Institute as technical-scientific base, he embarked in quick succession of important sanitation campaigns. His first challenge was a series of yellow fever endemics, which had earned Rio de Janeiro the sinister reputation of 'Foreigners' Grave'. Between 1897 and 1906, 4,000 European immigrants had died there from the disease. Cruz pursued the new technique of eradicating mosquitoes and their breeding grounds, fumigating houses, and isolation of the ill. There was opposition to the campaign by many, including physicians, the military, and the poor, but the campaign was successful. Cruz was initially successful in the sanitary campaign against the bubonic plague, to which end he used obligatory notification of cases, isolation of sick people, treatment with the sera produced at Manguinhos and extermination of the rats populating the city.

Smallpox vaccination controversy

He was not successful in implementing a widespread vaccination against smallpox, due to popular resistance to it. [3] In 1904, a smallpox epidemic was threatening the capital. In the first five months of the year, more than 1,800 people had been hospitalized. A law imposing smallpox vaccination of children had existed since 1837 but had never been put into practice. Therefore, on June 9, 1904, following a proposal by Oswaldo Cruz, the government presented a bill to the Congress requesting the reestablishment of obligatory smallpox vaccination. The extremely rigid and severe provisions of this instrument terrified the people. Popular opposition against Cruz increased sharply and opposition newspapers started a violent campaign against this and the federal government in general. Members of the parliament and labor unions protested. An anti-vaccination league was organized.

On November 10, the Vaccine Revolt exploded in Rio. Violent confrontations with the police ensued, with strikes, barricades, and shootings in the streets, as the population rose in protest against the government. On November 14, the Military Academy adhered to the revolt, but the cadets where dispersed after an intense shooting. The government declared a state of siege. On November 16, the uprising was controlled and the obligatory vaccination was suspended.

In 1908, a violent smallpox epidemic made the people rush en masse to the vaccination units. Some 9,000 people died. [4] Cruz was vindicated and his merit recognized.

Later work

Among the international scientific community, his prestige was already uncontested. In 1907, on occasion of the 14th International Congress on Hygiene and Demography in Berlin, Cruz was awarded with the gold medal in recognition of the sanitation of Rio de Janeiro. In 1909, he retired from the position as director general for Public Health, dedicating himself exclusively to the Manguinhos Institute, which has been named after him. From the institute he organized important scientific expeditions, which allowed a better knowledge about the health and life conditions in the interior of the country and contributed to the colonization of regions. Cruz eradicated urban yellow fever in the state of Pará. His sanitation campaign in the state of Amazonas allowed concluding the construction of the Madeira-Mamoré railroad, which was interrupted due to the great number of deaths from malaria and yellow fever among the workers.

In 1913, Cruz was elected a member of the Brazilian Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1915, due to health problems, he resigned from the directorship of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute and moved to Petrópolis, a small city in the mountains near Rio. On August 18, 1916, he was elected mayor of that city and outlined an extensive urbanization project he would not see implemented.

Death and legacy

In the morning of February 11, 1917, at 44 years of age, he died of kidney failure.

As a consequence of the short, fruitful life of Dr. Oswaldo Cruz, an extremely important scientific and health institution was born, which marked the beginning of experimental medicine in Brazil in many areas. To this day it exerts a strong influence on Brazilian science, technology and public health.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

This is a timeline of the development of prophylactic human vaccines. Early vaccines may be listed by the first year of development or testing, but later entries usually show the year the vaccine finished trials and became available on the market. Although vaccines exist for the diseases listed below, only smallpox has been eliminated worldwide. The other vaccine-preventable illnesses continue to cause millions of deaths each year. Currently, polio and measles are the targets of active worldwide eradication campaigns.

Carlos Chagas Brazilian doctor and scientist (1879-1934)

Carlos Justiniano Ribeiro Chagas, or Carlos Chagas, was a Brazilian sanitary physician, scientist, and bacteriologist, who worked as a clinician and researcher. He discovered Chagas disease, also called American trypanosomiasis, in 1909, while working at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro.

Vital Brazil Brazilian physician

Vital Brazil Mineiro da Campanha, known as Vital Brazil was a Brazilian physician, biomedical scientist and immunologist, known for the discovery of the polyvalent anti-ophidic serum used to treat bites of venomous snakes of the Crotalus, Bothrops and Elaps genera. He went on to be also the first to develop anti-scorpion and anti-spider serums. He was the founder of the Butantan Institute, a research center located in São Paulo, which was the first in the world dedicated exclusively to basic and applied toxicology, the science of venomous animals.

Instituto Butantan research institute

Instituto Butantan is a Brazilian biologic research center located in Butantã, in the western part of the city of São Paulo, Brazil. Instituto Butantan is a public institution affiliated with the São Paulo State Secretariat of Health and considered one of the major scientific centers in the world. Butantan is the largest immunobiologicals and biopharmaceuticals producer in Latin America. It is world-renowned for its collection of venomous snakes, as well as those of venomous lizards, spiders, insects and scorpions. By extracting the reptiles' and insects' venoms, the Institute develops antivenoms and medicines against many diseases, which include tuberculosis, rabies, tetanus and diphtheria.

Oswaldo Cruz Foundation organization

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation is a scientific institution for research and development in biological sciences located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it is considered one of the world's main public health research institutions. It was founded by Dr. Oswaldo Cruz, a noted physician and epidemiologist.

Cemitério de São João Batista cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Cemitério de São João Batista is a municipal necropolis originally owned and operated by the Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Rio de Janeiro, and run, since August 2014, by the private company Rio Pax.

Adolfo Lutz Brazilian entomologist

Adolfo Lutz was a Brazilian physician, father of tropical medicine and medical zoology in Brazil, and a pioneer epidemiologist and researcher in infectious diseases.

Henrique da Rocha Lima Brazilian microbiologist

Henrique da Rocha Lima was a Brazilian physician, pathologist and infectologist born in Rio de Janeiro. With his friend, Stanislaus von Prowazek, he described what would later be known as Rickettsia prowazekii, the pathogen of epidemic typhus. Rocha Lima named the organism after Prowazek and American bacteriologist Howard Taylor Ricketts (1871-1910).

São Luiz do Paraitinga municipality in Southeast, Brazil

São Luiz do Paraitinga is a municipality (município) in the eastern part of the state of São Paulo in Brazil. The name Paraitinga comes from the Tupi language (Parahytinga) meaning clear water). The city is a major tourist destination of the Paraíba Valley region, particularly, due to its Historic Centre, declared a national heritage site, and its Caipira traditions, including the Folia do Divino and the Carnival of Marchinas.

Marcelo Gonçalves Costa Lopes Brazilian footballer and executive

Marcelo Gonçalves Costa Lopes, usually known simply as Gonçalves is a Brazilian former footballer who played as a central defender. He was effective on low balls, and was well known because of his long hair, a recognisable hairstyle which he wore for most of his career, and which he only cut during the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, when all the Brazilian players entered the field in the semifinal match with shaved heads.

Evandro Chagas Brazilian physician

Evandro Serafim Lobo Chagas, was a Brazilian physician and biomedical scientist specializing in tropical medicine. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, the eldest son of Carlos Chagas (1879-1934), noted physician and scientist who discovered Chagas disease, and brother of Carlos Chagas Filho (1910-2000), also a noted physician and scientist who was president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The Vaccine Revolt or Vaccine Rebellion was a period of civil disorder which occurred in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

José Mariano de Conceição Vellozo Brazilian botanist

José Mariano de Conceição Vellozo (1742–1811) was a Colonial Brazilian botanist who catalogued specimens, for example: Cedrela fissilis Vell. in Florae Fluminensis. He was born in Tiradentes, formerly called São José do Rio das Mortes, state of Minas Gerais; and died in Rio de Janeiro, state of Rio de Janeiro. While at the University of Coimbra in Portugal in the 1790s he worked with Martim Francisco Ribeiro de Andrada in translating works on mineralogy and agriculture.

Portela (samba school) Samba school in Rio de Janeiro

The Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Portela is one of the most traditional samba schools of the city of Rio de Janeiro, and champion of the 2017 Carnival parade. It is the greatest winner of the top-tier Rio parade with 22 titles in total.

Museum of Life museum in Brazil

The Museum of Life is located at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Yellow fever vaccine is a vaccine that protects against yellow fever. Yellow fever is a viral infection that occurs in Africa and South America. Most people begin to develop immunity within ten days and 99 percent are protected within one month of vaccination, and this appears to be lifelong. The vaccine can be used to control outbreaks of disease. It is given either by injection into a muscle or just under the skin.

Oswaldo is a Spanish masculine given name.

Manguinhos Airport airport in Brazil

Manguinhos Airport was an airport that existed in the neighborhood of Manguinhos, near Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro from 1936 to 1972.

Mario Pinotti was a Brazilian medic and sanitarist. As director of the Brazilian National Malaria Service, Maio Pinotti pioneered chloroquinized salt in Brazil during the early 1950s in order to eradicate malaria.

Hélio Gelli Pereira Brazilian-British virologist

Hélio Gelli Pereira was a Brazilian-British virologist specialising in adenoviruses. Pereira was a co-recipient of the 1988 UNESCO Carlos J. Finlay Prize for Microbiology and was known for his work on the book, Viruses of Vertebrates. He contributed to several areas of virology in research and international public service.


  1. Nancy Leys Stepan. "Osvaldo Gonçalves Cruz" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 2, p. 303. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
  2. "Osvaldo Cruz". Academia Brasileira de Letras (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  3. Stepan, "Cruz", p. 303.
  4. Stepan, "Cruz" p. 303.
Preceded by
Raimundo Correia (founder)
Brazilian Academy of Letters - Occupant of the 5th chair

1912 — 1917
Succeeded by
Aloísio de Castro