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Correia Picanço

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Correia Picanço

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Last update: 29/07/2015

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

José Correia Picanço was born in what was then the town of Goiana, in the province of Pernambuco, on 10 November 1745, to barber-surgeon Francisco Correia Picanço and Joana do Rosário das Neves.

His primary education was completed in his hometown when he was already a teenager. His family moved to Recife, and Correia Picanço began to devote himself to learning the profession of his father. He assimilated and practiced it so well that it caught the attention of the then-governor of the Pernambuco province, Antonio de Souza Manoel de Menezes(1763-1768), the Count of Vila Flor, who appointed him as Surgeon of the Inputs and Reformed Ordinance Officein 1766.

But Correia Picanço’s professional goal was to go beyond this appointment. At the time, the title of barber-surgeon was important, but given only to people who could read and write, and their activities were based on scant medical knowledge that waslimited to the treatment of fractures and dislocations, wound healing, the application of suction, injection and leeches, opening abscesses, pulling teeth, and also, to justify the title, cutting hairand shaving.

Therefore, and for his dedication to the art of healing, the governor sent him to Lisbon, where Correia Picanço received the title of Licensed Surgeon after the regular course at the Surgical School of Hospital St Joseph. After Lisbon he went to Paris, and there he graduatedas“Officier de Santè” (Health Officer). In the French capital, he took up residence and opened a consultation office, marrying Catherine Brochot, the daughter of one of his teachers – Dr Claude Sabatier Brochot. From this union,Manoel, Filipe, José, Antônio Correia Picançoand Izabel Brochot Picanço da Costawere born.

He returned to Lisbonin 1771, reopened his office and was appointed professor of the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Coimbra by the Marquis of Pombal (Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo). However, as he did nothavethe degree of Doctor of Medicine, he was discredited by teaching colleagues. This was another incentive for his return to Paris, enrolling at the University of Montpellier, and getting the coveted title of Doctor of Medicine. Thus, he returned to Coimbra and reassumed the Chair of Anatomy, whichhe held for eighteen years. He innovated teaching methods when he introduced the use of human cadavers for teaching anatomy. Previously, students used animals for learning.

In the 1790s, back in Lisbon, he held importantpublic offices: First Surgeon of the Royal House, chief-surgeon of the Realmand County and permanent member of the Royal Board of the Protomedicato (the board of physicians who performed health inspections and supervised pharmacies, which at the timewere calledapothecaries).

In 1807, due to the Napoleonic invasion, D. John VI moved with his family to Brazil, and José Correia Picanço, the First Surgeon of the Royal House, followed him. They arrived in Bahia,Brazil, in 1808. With his recognised professional experience and realising the shortage of trained doctors in Brazilian territory, Correia Picanço decided to encourage the Prince to solve this problem. In the Royal Letter of 18 February 1808, the creation of the School of Surgery at the Royal Military Hospital was authorized in Salvador,Bahia. This gave rise to the first medical education establishment in Brazil.

In March 1808, with the royal family’smoveto Rio de Janeiro, and also accepting the proposal of José Correia Picanço, D. John created the School of Medical and Surgical Anatomyby decree on 5November 1808.

Besides his valuable participation in these two relevant facts to the history of medical education in Brazil, it has been recorded that José Correia Picanço attended, in Rio de Janeiro, the birth of the first emperor of Brazil, D. Maria Carolina Leopoldina, who gave birth to D. Maria da Glória, Princess of Beira, and later Queen of Portugal. Also attributed to him was the first caesarean section in Brazil,on a black woman, occurringin the province of Pernambuco in 1817.

As thefinal tribute in his life, he received the title of Baron of Goiana, granted by the Emperor D. Pedro I, on 26March 1821.

José Correia Picanço died on 23January1823, aged 78, with the following titles acquired over a lifetime of dedication to medical education and medicine: Bachelor of Surgery (Paris), Professor of Anatomy (Coimbra), 1st Surgeon of the Royal Chamber, Surgeon-Major of the Kingdom, Member of the Board of Real Protomedicato; Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon; Nobleman of the Royal House;Nobleman of the Council of His Majesty, Knight and Professed Commander of the Order of Christ, Honorary Knight and Commander of the Tower and Sword, First Baron of Goiana; Noble of the Empire, and founder of medical education in Brazil.

Several honours were held in his memory throughout Brazil. In the neighbourhood of Tamarineira, in the city of Recife, the government inaugurated a hospital with his name, and in 1958, Correia Picanço was proclaimed Patriarch of Medicine in Pernambuco at the 1st Pan-American Congress of History of Medicine and the 2nd Brazilian History of Medicine Congress.
He left only one publication: Ensaios sobre os perigos das sepulturas dentro das cidades e nos seus contornos (Essays on the Dangers of Graves within the City and Its Outskirts), Rio de Janeiro, 1812.

Recife, 28 july 2008.
(Updated on 14 september 2009).

Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.


sources consulted

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CORREIA Picanço. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 22 jul. 2008.

CORREIA Picanço [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 1º nov. 2012.

ESCOLA de Cirurgia da Bahia. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 22 jul. 2008.

GUIMARÃES, Mário V. Primeiras cesarianas no Brasil e em Pernambuco. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 22 jul. 2008.

______. Ensino médico no Brasil: 200 anos. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em 22 jul. 2008.

REGIS, Edmir. História da medicina pernambucana. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 22 jul. 2008. Imagem de José Correia Picanço.

MELLO, Antonio Joaquim de. Biographias de Joaquim Ignacio de Lima, Luiz Alves Pinto e José Correia Picanço. Recife: Typ. de Manoel Figueiroa de Faria & Filhos, 1895.

REGIS, Edmir. História da medicina pernambucana. Disponível em:. Acesso em: 22 jul. 2008. Imagem de José Correia Picanço.

ROCHA, Leduar de Assis. O goianense José Correia Picanço, fundador do Ensino Médico no Brasil. Revista do Museu do Açúcar, Recife, ano 3, v. 1, n. 4, p. 53-39, 1970.

how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Correia Picanço. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.