Vicente Coelho de Seabra Silva Telles (1764-1804)

Chemist, born around 1764 in Congonhas do Campo, in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. After completing his secondary education in Brazil, he came to Coimbra in 1783 in order to study Medicine. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Mathematics in 1786, a course which corresponded to the first four years of the degree in Medicine, which he obtained in 1791. In the same year he was nominated demonstrator in the subject of Chemistry and Metallurgy at the Faculty of Philosophy and obtained his doctorate in Philosophy. In 1793, he was nominated substitute lector of Chemistry and Metallurgy, in 1795 he was nominated substitute lector of the subjects of Botany and Zoology.

In 1789, he became a corresponding member of the Academia Real das Ciências de Lisboa. Two years later he became an associate member and in 1798 he was promoted to a permanent member.

From very early one he dedicated himself to chemical research, while still a student in Coimbra, and in 1787 he had already published a memoir titled Dissertação sobre a Fermentação em Geral, e suas espécies..

He died in 1804, shortly before reaching the age of 40.


Dissertação sobre a Fermentação Geral e suas espécies, Coimbra, 1787.
Elementos de Chimica offerecidos à Sociedade Litteraria do Rio de Janeiro, Coimbra, 1788-1790.
Dissertação sobre o Calor, 1788.
Nomenclatura Chimica Portugueza, Franceza e Latina a que se junta o systema de characteres chimicos adaptados a esta nomenclatura por Hassenfratz e Adet, Lisbon 1801, a translation and adaptation to the Portuguese language of the chemical nomenclature of Lavoisier and his co-workers. Seabra’s chemical terminology was adopted and remains to the present-day with only a few minor changes.
He presented some memoirs at the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, which were published by this Academy in several volumes of Memoirs, namely: "Memória sobre a Cultura do Rícino ou Mamona", 1791; "Memória sobre o Método de Curar a Ferrugem das Oliveiras", 1792; "Memória sobre a Cultura das Vinhas e Manufactura do Vinho"; "Memória em que se dá notícia das diversas espécies de Abelhas que dão Mel, prórpias do Brasil e desconhecidas na Europa", 1799; "Memória sobre a Cultura do Arroz em Portugal e suas Conquistas", 1780; "Memória sobre os Prejuízos causados pelas Sepulturas dos Cadáveres nos Templos e o Método de os Prevenir", Lisbon, 1801.
História, e Cura das Enfermidades mais usuaes do Boi, e do Cavalo, 2 vols., Lisbon, 1802, a translation of the book by Francisco Toggia.


Principais contributos científicos

Vicente Coelho Seabra distinguished himself in Chemistry, having been one of the first introducers and diffusers of the nomenclature and pneumatic chemistry of Lavoisier (1743-1794) in Portugal. In 1788, he had already published the first volume of his Elementos de Chimica, a year before Lavoisier’s Traité Élémentaire de Chimie. In this text he clearly reveals his adhesion to Lavoisier’s new Chemistry, which brought him some criticism and controversy by those who defended the chemical theories propagated at the time. From among his most important contributions, his work Elementos de Chimica was offered to the Sociedade Litteraria of Rio de Janeiro, to be used in a Chemistry course, although published in Coimbra, which is strange given that at the time the University of Coimbra was trying to draw up a compendium for the Chemistry Course, as laid down by the text of the university reform. This led to a long discussion on the best compendium to be used, which for a long time continued to be one published by foreign authors.

Also important for the implantation of new ideas in Chemistry is his work Nomenclatura Chimica Portugueza, Franceza e Latina a que se junta o systema de characteres chimicos adaptados a esta nomenclatura por Hassenfratz e Adet, published in 1801, and which adapts to the Portuguese language the nomenclature proposals presented by the French chemists and which came to be adopted by Portuguese chemists.

In addition to Chemistry, he also studied Agriculture and Hygiene, presented and published in the Memoirs of the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa.

Fernando Reis


COSTA, A. Amorim da, "A Univesidade de Coimbra na vanguarda da química do oxigénio", in Desenvolvimento da Ciência em Portugal, Lisboa, Academia das Ciências, 1986, vol. I, pp. 403-416.
COSTA, A. Amorim da, "Da natureza do fogo e do calor na obra de Vicente de Seabra (1764-1804)" in Universidade(s). História. Memória. Perspectivas. Actas do Congresso História da Universidade, Coimbra, 1991, vol. I, pp. 137-151.
COSTA, A. Amorim da, Primórdios da Ciência Química em Portugal, Lisboa, I. C. L. P., 1984.
GOUVEIA, A. J. Andrade, "Vicente de Seabra e a Revolução Química em Portugal", in História e Desenvolvimento da Ciência em Portugal, Lisboa, Academia das Ciências, 1986, vol. I, pp. 335-351.
GOUVEIA, A. J. Andrade, "Químico Esclarecido Luso-Brasileiro, Vicente de Seabra (1764-1804)", Memórias da Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, 21, 1976-1977, pp. 7-35.
GOUVEIA, A., J. Andrade, "Breve Notícia de Apresentação", in SEABRA E TELLES, Vicente Coelho, Elementos de Chimica, Coimbra, Univ. de Coimbra, 1985 (Reprodução fac-similada), pp. VII-XII.
SILVA, Inocencio da, ARANHA, Brito, Diccionario Bibliographico Portuguez, Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, T. VII, pp. 422-423.

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