The history of microscopy in Brazil

The first microscopes in Brazil

Although it is difficult to state when the first microscope arrived in Brazil, the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family brought new light to our lands. After arriving in Brazil, D. João VI founded the School of Surgery of Bahia in 1808 by decree. In 1832, already under the regency of Pedro II, the School of Surgery of Bahia is renamed as School of Medicine and, in the same year, the School of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro was also founded. It is likely that these schools housed the first microscopes in Brazil. In the same year, the Beagle ship arrives in Brazil bringing the naturalist Charles Darwin. Traveling along the Brazilian coast between 1832 and 1836, on board the ship, Darwin brought his small optical microscope, manufactured by Robert Barcks in 1825. In 1852, the professor and naturalist Fritz Müller arrived in Brazil from Germany. Müller settles in Santa Catarina and soon becomes interested in studying its exuberant nature. In 1857, Müller receives as a gift an optical microscope built by Friedrich W. Schiek. His discoveries contributed significantly to the acceptance of Darwin's Theory of Evolution of Species. A few years later, in 1901, the Austrian Eugen Hussak's research on petrography most likely began the use of optical microscopy in the study of materials in our country.

The first electron microscopes in Brazil

Electron microscopes were introduced in Brazil in 1947, with the arrival of microscopes from RCA, giving rise to the Electron Microscopy Laboratories of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Laboratory of the Oswaldo Cruz de Manguinhos Institute. Since then, electron microscopy has been considered a fundamental tool for materials science and biology. In the following decades, various groups were created in the Southeast region, with emphasis on the electron microscopy laboratories of the Biophysics Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) (1951), of the Butantan Institute (1952), of the Agronomic Institute of Campinas (1961), of the Adolfo Lutz Institute (1961), of the Histology and Embryology Department at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of USP (1966), of the Pathology Department at the Faculty of Medicine of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) (1967), of the USP Campus at Ribeirão Preto (1968), and of the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, also from USP (1969). Microscopy flourishes in the country in the 1960s, culminating in the founding of the Brazilian Society for Electron Microscopy in 1971. After decades of investment in research infrastructure in Brazil, the country stands out on the international scene. Today, more than 700 electron microscopes are distributed throughout the country, and National Laboratories with state-of-the-art infrastructure are accessible to the Brazilian scientific community. Among these, the Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory of the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (LNNano\CNPEM), the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Shared Facility (LABNANO\CBPF\MCTI), and the National Center for Structural Biology and Bioimaging (CENABIO) of UFRJ.
The relevance of microscopy techniques to the advancement of science in the world was recognized with the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics shared by Ernst Ruska, Gerd Binnig, and Heinrich Rohrer, for the invention of electron microscopes (Ruska) and scanning tunneling microscopes (Binnig and Rohrer). This new microscopy technique, which has atomic force microscopy (AFM) as the most widespread approach, belongs to the family of scanning probe microscopes (SPMs).

The introduction of scanning probe microscopes in Brazil

In Brazil, the first atomic force microscope was built in 1992 by Professor Victor Baranauskas from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), seven years after AFM was invented. Still in the 90's, several commercial AFMs were acquired and installed in Brazil. A survey in which several Brazilian researchers working in the area were consulted on the subject, revealed that, in addition to the first microscope assembled here, the first AFMs acquired also went to Unicamp in 1992, followed by the microscopes installed in the former Technological Center of Minas Gerais (CETEC) in 1993. Next came the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE), which bought its first AFMs in 1995. It is interesting to note that, before AFMs, COPPE already had an STM system brought from Germany and assembled in Brazil in 1993. Still in 1995, atomic force microscopes arrived at the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF) and at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). In 1996, the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) acquired their first AFMs. And at the end of the decade, in 1998, the first microscopes were installed at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). Today, we have more than a hundred SPM microscopes spread throughout the country.
The Brazilian Society of Microscopy and Microanalysis
Founded in 1971, the Brazilian Society of Electron Microscopy (SBME) plays a very important role in publicizing the scientific advances produced by Brazilian microscopy. As a result of the growth of the scientific community, advances in the microscopy area, the development of microanalysis, and the emergence of new microscopy techniques, the society grew and became known as the Brazilian Society for Microscopy and Microanalysis (SBMM). Nowadays, the society aims to be increasingly inclusive, providing access to the entire scientific community and young researchers to information and advances in these techniques.

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