Presentation of the book – O Concelho de Guimarães – João de Meira

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Presentation of the book - O Concelho de Guimarães - João de Meira

The book O Concelho de Guimarães (Estudo de Demographia e Nosographia) by João Monteiro Meyra will be launched on December 10th at 4:30pm in the Salão Nobre da Sociedade Martins Sarmento.


The Municipality of Guimarães. Study of demography and nosography

Fulfilling a duty, Sociedade Martins Sarmento decided to re-edit the work The Municipality of Guimarães. Study of demography and nosographyby João de Meira, originally published in 1907, corresponding to the Inaugural Dissertation presented to the Oporto Medical-Surgical School.

This work has a double dimension, firstly historical, undertaking an original history of the county of Guimarães, based, for the first time, on a rigorous study of the historical documents available and not, as was customary until then, on the uncritical repetition of the legends and narratives of the old vimaranenses monographs. Most of Meira’s examinations and conclusions are still up-to-date, so that, even if only for this reason, the re-edition of his work and its dissemination would be fully justified. Moreover, Meira has a modern perspective on how the History of Portugal should be written, in his words, it should not be the “sterile and boring enumeration of their kings, but the chronicle of the anonymous people, until today almost forgotten by historians and, what is worse, often slandered. (João de Meira, O Concelho de Guimarães, p.XI.)

A second dimension has to do with the nosographic study of the municipality of Guimarães, that is, the set of diseases that most affected its inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century. All the others contribute to this chapter: geology, climatology, culture, anthropology, and population. He deeply analyzes, using statistical data he collected at the Misericórdia Hospital and the surveys he promoted, the most common pathologies in the county, with particular emphasis on pellagra, a very common disease in the Minho lands and of which, at that time, neither the etiology nor the treatment was known. The attention paid to this disease intersects, in a way, with Meira’s perspective on the history of Portugal. Again, what drives him is to try to understand and help the poorest, the social group most affected by this disease.

João Monteiro de Meira (1881-1913)

He was born in Guimarães, on July 31st, 1881. He was the son of Joaquim José de Meira, a physician and personality of great importance in the vimaranense politics and culture. He studied in Guimarães, at the Colégio de S. Dâmaso, installed in the Monastery of Santa Marinha da Costa. He entered the Oporto Medical-Surgical School, concluding his studies in 1907 with the presentation of the Inaugural Dissertation entitled O concelho de Guimarães (estudo de demografia e nosografia), which was evaluated by the jury with 20 points. He received numerous compliments, which went beyond the medical sphere and reached illustrious intellectuals of the time, such as Ramalho Ortigão, Teófilo Braga, and Henrique da Gama Barros.

He returned to Guimarães and began his activity in medicine and teaching, having been approved in a competition to become a provisional teacher at the Liceu-Seminário de Guimarães.

In 1908, he successfully applied for a position at the Oporto Medical-Surgical School, with the thesis O Parto Cesáreo: sua história, sua technica, suas acidentes e complicações, suas indicações e prognostico. He thus took up the post of substitute lens of Surgery, at the age of only 26. Two years later, he succeeded his master Maximiliano Lemos as regent of the chair of Forensic Medicine and as Director of the Oporto Morgue.

From his youth he collaborated with numerous local and national periodicals. At that time, his satirical texts and the poems he published under pseudonyms became famous. He was also an important contributor to the Revista de Guimarães, where he published some of the most lucid studies on Guimarães‘ history. Already as a professor at the Medical-Surgical School, he published a great variety of scientific papers in several specialty journals, also collaborating in the direction of the Archives of the History of Portuguese Medicine. The Martins Sarmento Society, in 1912, recognizing the merit of his historical works, nominated him to succeed the Abbot of Tagilde in the organization and publication of the Vimaranes Monumenta Historica.

He could not continue these projects because, in the meantime, he fell ill, and eventually died, at the age of 32, on September 25, 1913.

Having been honored with the attribution of his name to a street and a school, besides several cultural and scientific events, João de Meira is still little more than a name to most of the people from Guimarães. Therefore, the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon him is the dissemination of his work, which combines a brilliant spirit with scientific rigor, opening innovative perspectives in various areas of knowledge. All this, moreover, with a literary style that holds the reader’s attention.

The re-edition of this work counts with the collaboration of CITCEM researchers.