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Teodoro Fernandes Sampaio

Teodoro Fernandes Sampaio was an Afro-Brazilian engineer, geographer, writer, cartographer, architect, ethnographer, and historian. He experienced and even led some of Brazil’s greatest historical transformations: from a slave society to industrial capitalism, and from the imperial era to the Vargas nation-state.
 
Sampaio was born on January 7, 1855 in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, Brazil. His mother, Domingas da Paixao do Carmo, was enslaved and his father was most likely her master. His father apparently granted him freedom at birth or shortly thereafter as Sampaio lived his entire life a free man.
 
At age 9 Sampaio moved from Bahia to São Paulo, and then to Rio de Janeiro where he studied engineering at the elite Escola Politécnica do Rio de Janeiro. During his studies he also lectured on engineering and worked as an architectural draftsman for the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Sampaio was a pioneer in the fields of engineering and national infrastructure development in Brazil. In 1879 he was named as a member of the prestigious Comissão Hidráulica do Império, tasked with supporting industry in the interior by connecting it via railway to the ports of Rio, Bahia, and Pernambuco. Sampaio specifically oversaw the construction of the railway between Salvador da Bahia and São Francisco.
 
Toward the end of the São Francisco expedition, Sampaio trekked through the Chapada Diamantina region and the sertões (hinterlands) of Bahia. These travels prompted his first two major publications, still considered among the most important studies of the geography and culture of the interior of Brazil.
 
Sampaio viewed sanitation and transport projects as integral to the creation of a modern society and social equality, and worked in official capacities in these fields from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. He also continued to publish, lecture, and participate in politics and cultural institutions.
 
Sampaio died on 11 October 1937 in Rio de Janeiro. There are two towns named after him in Brazil, one in the state of Bahia and another in the state of São Paulo. A major road in the city of São Paulo is also named for him. Sampaio’s experiences and achievements would be remarkable for any person from any walk of life, but they are particularly impressive considering his birth to an enslaved mother in a society deeply structured by racism and oligarchic power. Sampaio dedicated his life to the development of public institutions and public health.

Read the full, original biography by Elizabeth Cooper in The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography

View complete story (pdf)

Bibliography

Cooper, Elizabeth. "Sampaio, Teodoro Fernandes." Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography , edited by Ed. Franklin W. Knight. , edited by and Henry Louis Gates Jr.. . Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t456/e1876 (accessed Thu Sep 05 10:57:24 EDT 2019).


Costa, Ivoneide de França. “O rio São Francisco e a Chapada Diamantina nos desenhos de Teodoro Sampaio.” M.A. diss., Universidade Federal da Bahia, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, 2007.

De Azevedo, Thales, et al. “Epigrafes/Introduções.” In São Paulo no século XIX e outros ciclos históricos, by Teodoro Sampaio. São Paulo: Editora Vozes, 1978.

Filho, Luiz Viana. “Prefacio.” In O rio São Francisco e a Chapada Diamantina, by Teodoro Sampaio. Salvador: Livraria Progresso Editora, 1955.

Lima, Arnaldo do Rosário. “Teodoro Sampaio: Sua vida e sua obra.” M.A. diss., Faculdade de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 1981.

Santos, Ademir Pereira dos. Theodoro Sampaio: Nos sertões e nas cidades. Rio de Janeiro: Versal, 2010.

Adapted by

James Almeida and Steven J. Niven

Contributing Institutions

Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Oxford University Press (USA) African American Studies Center.

Teodoro Sampaio

Key Events

January 7, 1855

Born in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, Brazil to an enslaved mother and probably her master. His father apparently grants his freedom at birth or shortly thereafter.

1864

Sampaio moves from Bahia to São Paulo. He later moves on to Rio de Janeiro and studies engineering at the elite Escola Politécnica do Rio de Janeiro.

1877

Sampaio completes his engineering degree and returns to his birth place in Bahia.

1878-1884

He purchases the freedom of his three brothers who were enslaved.

1879

Sampaio is named to the prestigious Comissão Hidráulica do Império (Imperial Hydraulic Commission), tasked with supporting industry in the interior by connecting it to the ports of Rio, Bahia, and Pernambuco via railways. His role is to direct the construction of the railway between Salvador da Bahia and São Francisco. Toward the end of the São Francisco expedition, Sampaio treks through the Chapada Diamantina region and the sertões of Bahia.

1894

Sampaio helps found the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico de São Paulo (Historical and Geographical Institute of São Paulo).

1898

Sampaio is appointed the director and chief engineer of sanitation in the state of São Paulo and an inspector for the Canadian-owned São Paulo Tramway Light and Power Company.

1901

He publishes O tupi na geografia nacional (The Tupi in National Geography) based on his travels to the Chapada and Bahian sertões regions.

1903

Sampaio leaves his roles in São Paulo to return again to Bahia, where he works on urban sanitation and engineering projects. There he also becomes a member of the city council and helps found the Instituto Geográfico e Histórico da Bahia (Geographical and Historical Institute of Bahia).

1905

He publishes another work based on his earlier travels, O rio São Francisco e a Chapada Diamantina (The São Francisco River and the Chapada Diamantina). Both publications are still considered among the most important studies of the geography and culture of the Brazilian interior.

1912

Sampaio presides over the Fifth Congress of Brazilian Geography.

1922

He serves as the president of the Instituto Geográfico e Histórico da Bahia.

1922

Sampaio publishes Dicionário histórico, geográfico e etnográfico do Brasil (Historic, Geographic, and Ethnographic Dictionary of Brazil), focused on historical and cultural aspects of Bahia and São Paulo like much of his later work.

October 11, 1937

He dies in Rio de Janeiro.