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Portuguese Mathematical Society

The Portuguese Mathematical Society (SPM - Sociedade Portuguesa de Matemática) is the mathematical society of Portugal, and was founded in Lisbon, in December 1940.


The Society had to face many difficulties due to the political events occurred during the 20th century in Portugal.

António de Oliveira Salazar became prime minister of Portugal in July 1932. A new constitution was put in place in 1933 which set up the National Assembly, all seats in which were filled by government supporters. Political parties were banned by the ruling regime of Estado Novo, and the government used censorship, propaganda, and political imprisonment in running the country. Many scientists, believing in the importance of scientific knowledge and education, felt that these ends could only be achieved through democratic means. Among these critics of the regime were many elements of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). This meant an inevitable conflict between the government of Estado Novo and many personalities of the new Portuguese Mathematical Society.

One of the first moves the new Society made was to try to expand its membership. To do this the Society had to be active throughout the whole country, and also it had to offer something to teachers of mathematics, students of mathematics, as well as those undertaking mathematical research. At this time Portugal suffered grave deficiencies both in research and education. However, in 1949 Egas Moniz was awarded the only Nobel Prize in Medicine in Portuguese history, and from the 1960s to the Carnation Revolution in April 1974, several universities were founded by the Estado Novo regime in Portugal (e.g. Aveiro University, University of Évora, Minho University, New University of Lisbon and ISCTE, all in 1972/1973) and its overseas territories (University of Luanda and University of Lourenço Marques, all in 1962), as well as a large number of commercial/industrial schools and secondary schools.

The Society tried to improve the situation by setting up committees such as a Pedagogical Committee, a Pure Mathematics Committee, an Applied Mathematics Committee, and a History and Philosophy of Mathematics Committee. Contacts were made with foreign mathematicians and mathematical societies and Maurice René Fréchet visited Portugal at the invitation of the Society who made him an honorary member.

As part of its aims to promote mathematics, Mathematics Clubs were set up in schools, the first in 1942. All this had been achieved under the first President P. J. da Cunha who served until 1943. After this Bento de Jesus Caraça took over, followed by Ferreira de Macedo in 1945 and Zaluar Nunes in 1947. These were faced with increasing difficulties as the government moved against the dissidents who studied or worked in the universities.

Distrust by the government increased and soon serious attacks were made upon science and the universities where several politized student protests were often organized by the anti-regime groups, including the PCP. The mathematics clubs were declared illegal and banned. In the year 1946-47 an offensive against the universities was launched with disastrous results. A large number of professors, not only of mathematics, lost their jobs. Many had to make their living in different walks of life. The Portuguese Mathematical Society was prevented from holding its normal meetings because gatherings of many people displeased the political authorities. Moreover, it was forbidden to elect another committee.

Despite these almost impossible circumstances the Portuguese Mathematical Society did manage to avoid total extinction, although it could not function in any meaningful way. The political situation changed in 1974. On 25 April 1974 the dictatorship was overthrown by a military coup and democracy was restored with a general election held in April 1975. The Portuguese Mathematical Society became a legal entity in 1977 and once again could begin to function in the way it wished to promote the mathematical sciences at all levels throughout Portugal.

Portugaliae Mathematica had been published since 1939 and continued to be published through the dark years when the Society could not function. However, with the Society flourishing again, it took over control of the journal. The Society took on its role of organising meetings and conferences. The Society also began the work of establishing Olympiad competitions in 1980, the first nations such competitions being three years later. The first Portuguese team participated in the International Mathematics Olympiad competition for the first time in 1989.

Governing body


Other voting members:

External links

  • SPM - Sociedade Portuguesa de Matemática
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