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Vasconcelos Sobrinho

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Professor, Agronomic engineer and Conservational ecologist.

Vasconcelos Sobrinho

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Last update: 30/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

João Vasconcelos Sobrinho was born on 28 April 1908 in Moreno, a city in the Recife Metropolitan Region, Pernambuco.

A pioneer in the area of environmental studies in Brazil, he is considered to be one of the greatest authorities on ecology in Latin America

He created and directed, for a long time, the Dois Irmãos Zoo-Botanical Gardens – today the Dois Irmãos Park – inaugurated on 14 January 1939 by the intervener of Pernambuco at the time, Agamenon Magalhães, in the Recife neighbourhood of Dois Irmãos.

He was one of those responsible for the creation of the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (UFRPE), where he introduced the disciplines of Conservationist Ecology (the first of its kind in Brazil) and Desertology, as well as having the role of rector (1963).

Professor, agronomic engineer and conservational ecologist, Vasconcelos Sobrinho held many positions, including that of Botanist of UFRPE; chair professor of Technological Botany of the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE); director of the Pernambuco Forest Inspection and Protection of Nature service; director of the Forest Service of the Ministry of Agriculture – later named the Brazilian Institute of Forest Development (IBDF); director of the Pernambucano Centre of the Brazilian Foundation for the Conservation of Nature and consulter for the Superintendence of Northeast Development (Sudene).

He was a member of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), was one of the first scientists to raise the alarm of the formation of deserts in some Brazilian regions, being invited to participate in the United Nations Conference on Desertification in Nairobi, Kenya. He was also very committed to the reforestation of brazilwood and founded the Tapacurá Ecological Station (UFRPE).

The problem of desertification became more prominent from the 1970s when Vasconcelos Sobrinho announced that there would appear in the Brazilian semi-arid region a large desert with all the ecological characteristics that lead to the formation of the great deserts existing today in other regions of the globe.

He published over twenty papers, all on ecology and the conservation of natural resources, among them the following stand out: Dicionário de termos técnicos de botânica (Dictionary of Technical Terms in Botany) (2.ed., 1945); As regiões naturais de Pernambuco, o meio e a civilização (The Natural Regions of Pernambuco, Environment and Civilisation ) (1949), his most famous book; As regiões naturais do Nordeste, o meio e a civilização (The Natural Regions of the Northeast, Environment and Civilisation) (1970); Ciência, religião sem dogmas (Science, Religion without Dogmas) (2.ed., 1973); Catecismo da ecologia (Catechism of Ecology) (1979); Processos de desertificação ocorrentes no Nordeste do Brasil: sua gênese e sua contenção (Processes of Desertification Occuring in Northeast Brazil) (1982); Desertificação no Nordeste do Brasil (Desertification in Northeast Brazil) (collection of works published by the Department of Natural Resource Planning of Sudene, in 2002).

João Vasconcelos Sobrinho died on 4 May 1989 in Recife.

In his honour, the State Agency for the Environment and Hydro Resources (CPRH), from 1990, created the Vasconcelos Sobrinho Award in recognition of a man who, through his work and ideals, aroused the love of nature, spreading the practice of objective actions to care for the environment.

Also in his honour, in Serra dos Cavalos in Caruaru, Pernambuco, there is the Professor João Vasconcelos Sobrinho Ecological Park, a state reserve of Atlantic Forest, with a swamp area of 359 hectares.

Recife, 6 May 2008.
(Updated on 9 September 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.


sources consulted

BIOGRAFIA: João Vasconcelos Sobrinho. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 6 maio 2008.

DESERTIFICAÇÃO: Pesquisas no Piauí já apontam resultados. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em:  5 maio 2008.

SERRA dos  Cavalos / Parque Ecológico Professor João Vasconcelos Sobrinho. Disponível em: <®ioes=4&estados=16>. Acesso em: 6 maio 2008.

UFRPE comemora centenário de João Vasconcelos Sobrinho. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 6 maio 2008.

UFRPE em Foco: ex-Reitor da UFRPE é homenageado pela CPRH. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 6 maio 2008.

VASCONCELOS SOBRINHO, J. As regiões naturais do Nordeste, o meio e a civilização. Recife: Condepe. 1970.

VASCONCELOS SOBRINHO (Foto). Jornal da Semana, Recife, ano 5, n. 159, 5 a 11 nov. 1977. p. 8.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Vasconcelos Sobrinho. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.