University of Coimbra

Since Portugal became an independent kingdom in 1143, Coimbra has always had the most important cultural and educational institutions, such as the oldest Portuguese University. In 1290, in the reign of King Dinis, the first in the country and one of the oldest Universities in Europe was founded, thanks to the intervention of Church high dignitaries and of the papal edict by the Pope Nicolau IV.

The main building was for several years the Paço Real da Alcáçova and was also where several kings of medieval Portugal were educated. Nowadays, it is the premises of the University of Coimbra. This set of buildings has had important improvements, such as the edification of a Chapel that is representative of the renaissance art, and also the construction, early in the 18th century, of one of the most original European baroque libraries.

In 1772, the Marquis de Pombal, the powerful prime minister of D. José I, made great improvements in the University of Coimbra. Thus, it began to be orientated by the new science requiring the conciliation between teaching and investigating. Despite all the new study plans, two new faculties were established: the Faculties of Philosophy (Science) and Mathematics. There were also created new means of supporting research and education according to the modern methods, such as: the School hospital, the Anatomic Theatre, the Pharmaceutical Dispensary, the Astronomical laboratory, the Botanical Garden, the Natural History Office, the Experimental Physics Office and the Chemical Laboratory.

The Chemical laboratory from Pombal’s epoch in University of Coimbra

Other new universities were founded in Portugal in the years 1836, 1837. In Lisbon and Porto were established the Medical and Chirurgical Faculties, the Polytechnic Faculty of Lisbon and the Polytechnic Academy of Porto. It was only at the beginning of the republican regime that two new universities were established; Portugal had since 1911, three new universities: University of Lisbon, University of Porto and University of Coimbra.

Porto University was established on 22nd of March of 1911 by the temporary republican Government. It was founded on the old building of the Polytechnic Academy and was the result of the confederation of the already founded Superior Schools: Polytechnic Academy, Commerce and Navy Academy and Medical Chirurgical School. These Superior Schools became the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Commerce, Faculty of Medicine and the attached School of Pharmacy.

Polytechnic Academy building in 1822, where it was established the University of Porto

Prof. Francisco Gomes Teixeira, illustrious mathematician and Cathedra professor of Differential and Integral Calculus at the Science Faculty, was its first rector.

Francisco Gomes Teixeira, oil portrait by Abel Moura

All the other universities and many other institution of the higher education, which still exist today in our country, were established throughout the second half of the 20th century.