Vital Brazil was born on April 28, 1865, in the town of Campanha, in the state of Minas Gerais, Southeastern Brazil. His father gave him this curious name in homage to the country, the state and the city where he was born.
He graduated in Medicine in 1891, in Rio de Janeiro, working as a technical assistant in the chair of Physiology in order to pay for his tuition and living expenses. After graduating, he began work in public health, initially as a sanitary inspector in São Paulo (1892–1895), where he acquired experience in the prevalent epidemic diseases of the time (smallpox, typhoid fever, yellow fever and cholera), and then as a private practitioner in the city of Botucatu, from 1895 to 1896.
Vital Brazil was attracted by medical research in the growing fields of bacteriology, virology and immunology at the end of the 19th century, which were being fueled by the great discoveries in Europe, by Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Paul Ehrlich and many others. He therefore returned to São Paulo in 1897 and accepted a position in the Instituto Bacteriológico de São Paulo (Bacteriological Institute of São Paulo), under direction of the great Brazilian pathologist and epidemiologist Adolfo Lutz. There, he worked on the preparation of sera against several diseases, particularly bubonic plague, of which he fell gravely ill, fortunately surviving it.
Due to his outstanding work, the government of São Paulo founded a new Serum Therapy Institute in 1901 and gave its directorship to Vital Brazil. He also founded the Institute of Hygiene, Serum Therapy and Veterinary Medicine in the city of Niterói, in 1919.
Vital Brazil carried out scientific travels to Europe in 1904 and 1914 and to 1925 to the United States. He continued working at the Butantan Institute for several decades until his retirement in 1919. He died on May 8, 1950, celebrated as one of the most important Brazilian scientists ever.
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