Correia da Serra, entre Ciência, Religião e Diplomacia

Translated title of the contribution: Correia da Serra: Science Religion and Diplomacy

Maria Paula Diogo, Ana Isabel Simões, Ana Carneiro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The history and geography of José Francisco Correia da Serra’s life(1751-1823) were marked by travels and periods of persecution: in his childhood,due to impending accusations of Judaism, he moved with his family to Italy;when he was 26 years old, after being ordained a priest, he returned to Portugal where he lived until 1795, the year he left to London. He lived there forsix years, but was then forced to move to Paris; in 1812, he left to the UnitedStates of America, where he was appointed ambassador, and became friendlyand adviser to Thomas Jefferson. Abbot Correia returned to Portugal, in 1821,but died two years later, having spent 52 years of his lifetime abroad.Throughout his life, he developed original scientific ideas, and partook ofa worldview in which history, natural history, social organization and politicalprojects were mutually dependent. As a leading figure of Portuguese Enlight‑enment, the estrangeirado (European-oriented intellectual) Correia da Serra wasa naturalist of the world, recognised by his peers for his ideas and mediatingskills as he often acted as a catalyst in the communication between differentscientific communities.Author of innovative scientific articles and participant in the main debatesof his time, Correia da Serra never wrote a comprehensive scientific textbook,or even a Prodromus. His wandering life and economic difficulties, together with his involvement in international scientific networks within the Republicof Letters, explain fully his options. A clergyman largely by convenience, hedid not incorporate theological considerations in his reflections and scientificpractices. Both in botany and geology, and in history only interpretations basedon fact and observation mattered. He was, in addition, harshly critical of theRoman Catholic Church as an institution.As a Portuguese diplomat in the United States, Correia da Serra’s careerwas built upon his scientific prestige and masonic affiliation, both sharedwith leading founding fathers of the new-born republic. Thanks to his pres‑tige as a naturalist, he participated in the construction of an internationalnetwork, which can be amenable to the recent concept of science diplomacy,as he influenced and advised the emerging community of young Americannaturalists, and marked the country’s agenda for the exploitation of its vastnatural resources.In this chapter, particular attention is given to Correia da Serra’s travels andhow they impacted on his scientific work in the realms of botany, geology andhistory, as well as on the construction of the networks in which he participated,personally and institutionally. His life in Portugal and his long stays abroad,his active participation in the intellectual life of the nations where he lived, aswell as his political options as a clergyman, member of the Freemasonry, anda committed citizen of the Republic of Letters, are deemed fundamental to arenewed analysis of the multidimensional relationships between science, reli‑gion, politics and diplomacy, in the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. The (re)discovery of a man of science such as Correia da Serra shows thatthe construction of Europe does not end in the scientific discourses and practices of the leading countries; on the contrary, although forgotten by the nar‑ratives of traditional historiography, their role is essential to build up a morefaithful, and naturally more complex, image of the European cultural fabric, including its relationships with the world.
Translated title of the contributionCorreia da Serra: Science Religion and Diplomacy
Original languagePortuguese
Title of host publicationCiência, Tecnologia e Medicina na Construção de Portugal: Volume 2: Razão e Progresso— Séc. XVIII
EditorsMaria Paula Diogo, Ana Simões, Marta C. Lourenço, José Alberto Silva
Place of PublicationLisboa
PublisherTinta da China
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-989-671-597-7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Correia da Serra
  • Botany
  • Geology
  • Religion and diplomacy


Dive into the research topics of 'Correia da Serra: Science Religion and Diplomacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this