Dr. Froilano de Mello, MD, Eminent Doctor
PROFESSOR FROILANO de MELLO, MD
Professor Froilano de Mello, MD
A Short Biography of His Life and Achievements
Froilano de Mello was born on May 17th 1887 in Benaulim, the eldest son of lawyer Constancio Francisco de Mello, and Delfina Rodrigues, daughter of Dr. Raimundo Venancio Rodrigues, a Goan mayor of Coimbra, member of the Cortes in Portugal, and one of the first directors of Goa Medical School – the Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Goa.
Tragedy struck the life of Froilano early. An orphan at the age of 12 years but single minded and determined, young Froilano worked while he studied. There was some funding available from the family properties which were not competently managed by the caretaker. Consequently, it was quite an austere and difficult childhood for Froilano. But despite all the difficulties, he graduated in Panjim as a medical doctor, completed his doctorate in medicine in Oporto, and was appointed a professor at the Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Goa in 1910, at the age of 23.
He was also appointed an assistant professor at The Sorbonne, Paris (1913-14), a visiting Professor at Oporto , Portugal in 1921 and served as the director of the Bacteriological Institute in Panjim, Goa, from 1914 – 1945. He undertook a postgraduate course in Parasitology in Kaiser Willhelm Institute fuer Biologie, Berlin, and at the Max Planck Institut, Potsdam, Germany (1922-23). His published works in the fields of medicine and science have been published in the Archives of Goa Medical School (1941) and appear in scientific reviews in Paris, Lisbon, Oporto, Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Patna, Madrid, Berlin, Budapest, Orense, Montreux, Jujuy ,Cairo, Luanda, Johannesburg, Rome, Turin, Bucharest, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, The Hague, and Shanghai. (3)
His contributions to Public Health in Goa : He established the TB Sanitarium in Margao in 1928 and founded the 1st Leprosarium in Asia in Macazana, Goa, in 1934. Dr. Froilano is well known for efforts to help eradicate malaria in Goa. In 1926, with the help of one of his pupils, Dr. Luis Bras de Sa, he carefully mapped the site of Old Goa and found more than 4800 wells in the old city, which were breeding grounds of anopheles mosquitoes. This important information led to the closure of these wells. This, in turn, led to the reduction of the mosquito breeding sites, and played a significant role in the control of the raging malaria problem in Goa in the 1920s.
Dr. Froilano was the founder of following medical journals in Goa:
Boletim Geral de Medicina, Arquivos Indo-Portugueses de Medicina e Historia Natural, and Arquivos da Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Nova Goa.
He represented Portugal at thirty seven international medical congresses, including the All India Sanitary Conference in Lucknow (1914) and the Third Entomological Meeting in Lucknow (1914) where, at the invitation of the Viceroy of India, he lectured on Medical Micology. Among other international conferences he attended were the ones held at: Lahore(1918) Coimbra (1925), Calcutta (1927), Cairo (1928), Allahabad (1930), Algiers (1930), Padua (1930),Oporto ( 1931 ), Jujuy ( 1931), Bangalore ( 1932 ), Bucharest ( 1932 ), Lisbon ( 1935 ), Amsterdam (1935 & 1938), Orense (1935) , Budapest (1935), Lausanne (1935), Paris (1937), Lourenco Marques (1938), Johannesburg (1938), Havana (1949) and Petropolis ( 1950 ).
He was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal; the Indian Academy of Sciences; Societie de Pathologie Exotique – Paris; Sociedade de Ciencias Medicas (Lisbon); Sociedade de Etnologia & Antropologia; Sociedade de Geografia (Lisbon) and Societie de Biologie de Paris.
In 1926, he was elected as a Member of Parliament to represent Portuguese India in Lisbon. Unfortunately, that year also saw the Carmona-Salazar coup d’etat. The elections were nullified and not held again for the next 19 years.
Dr. Froilano was the Director of the Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Goa from 1927-1947, and Chief of Public Health for Portuguese India for the same period. He was a Colonel in the Portuguese Army Medical Corps, at age 35, achieving the highest rank in the medical military hierarchy of that time.
He authored “A la Veille du Centenaire” (1941), a book listing all the achievements of the first hundred years of the Goa Medical School and “O Cantico da Vida na Poesia Tagoreana” (1946) – “The song of life in the poetry of Tagore” .
As mayor of Panjim (1938-45), Dr. Froilano de Mello cleansed the city’s stables of mismanagement and fiscal deficits and is credited with the urbanization of the city of Panjim. He organized the ballustrade on the river Mandovi, from the centre of town up to Campal, lining the riverside avenue, and planted trees in many of the streets of Panjim, with seeds of tropical trees from Cuba (sent by his colleague Prof. Hoffmann in Havana). These jacaranda and acacia trees , whose seedlings were planted in 1940, have now yielded the big 56 year old trees, giving shade to the streets which were originally lined only with coconut and ficus trees.
During the Second World War anti-rabies vaccine was scarce in Goa but rabies was prevalent along with the widespread problem of stray dogs. Dr. Froilano ordered the elimination of all stray dogs, offering a reward per stray dog. This resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of cases of rabies . A similar reward was offered for the capture or destruction of poisonous snakes. The number of snake bites which needed treatment was also reduced..
In 1945 Froilano was elected once again as a Member of Parliament to represent Goa in Lisbon. Using his superb oratoric skills he worked assiduously to eliminate the discriminatory Acto Colonial of 1930, which made Goans, second class citizens in Goa. In 1950, after a sustained struggle and against many odds and doubters and opposition, even in Goa, he succeeded in obtaining a new Political Statute for Goa. He was the only independent M.P. for the period 1945-49; all the others being members of Salazar’s UNIAO NACIONAL party.
The dictatorial Dr. Antonio Salazar did not take this independent-minded Goan too kindly. The Portuguese government had ” a knife at Dr. Froilano’s bosom ” ever since he began his fight for the rights of Goans. The repeal of the discriminatory Acto Colonial was welcomed by many Goans. But, Froilano, was now fighting for an independent ‘Goa, Damao e Diu’ , within the framework of a Commonwealth with Portugal; an idea akin to the status of the British Commonwealth. This publicly proclaimed dream of an INDEPENDENT GOA, however, did not fit-in too well with the Salazar government in Lisbon which was totally opposed to any talk of independence for Goa, a prized historical possession, that was ‘part and parcel of Portugal for centuries’.
In 1950, Dr. Froilano, was, for the first time in his tenure, not nominated as delegate of Portugal to attend the medical congress in Quitandinha, Petropolis, Brazil. But he did go to Brazil, nevertheless – but at the invitation of President Dutra of Brazil and his minister of education, Pedro Calmon. Dr. Froilano was accorded a very warm welcome in Brazil, quite a contrast to the ostracization he faced in Goa.
As a consequence, the disappointed but unbroken Dr. Froilano emigrated in 1951 to Brazil where three of his children lived. He had also been there the previous year to attend an international medical conference, at the invitation of the Brazilian Government. He settled in Sao Paolo where he continued his scientific activities and studies of parasites, and in the process identified various new species of parasites. His works were published posthumously by the Instituto Ezequiel Dias of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. After a painful struggle with lung cancer, Froilano passed away on January 9, 1955 in Brazil, far away from the land he loved so much and fought so valiantly for – GOA.
Dr. Froilano de Mello received medals of honour from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands ( 1938 ), from Pope Pius XII ( 1947 ) on the occasion of the canonization of St. John de Brito, from President Grau de San Martin of Cuba (1949 ) and from President Dutra of Brazil in 1950. He also held the following Portuguese honours: Grande Official da Ordem de Aviz, Comendador da Ordem de Sao Tiago and Comendador da Ordem de Benemerencia. Sao Paulo, Brazil, has a street named Froilano de Mello, while The Sao Paulo Medical College has named one of its halls in Froilano’s honour .
Froilano was married twice. His first marriage was to Marie Eugenie Caillat, an aristocratic young lady from Geneva, whom he had met in Paris in 1910. They returned soon thereafter to Goa and built a magnificent chalet up on the hilltop of Altinho, Panjim. Eugenie was the first person to translate the works of the poet Rabindranath Tagore into French. In December 1921, returning to Oporto from a visit to her parents in Geneva, she contracted the dreaded Spanish flu and tragically passed away. This was devastating for Froilano who was at the time, a visiting professor at Oporto. Eugenie and Froilano did not have any children.
On September 15, 1923, Froilano married Hedwig Bachmann, a young Swiss school teacher from Diessenhofen. (4) They had 6 children: 3 boys and 3 girls. The de Mellos returned to the chalet up on Altinho and had a zestful and close family life at the Villa do Monte. The determination and guidance provided by Hedwig and Froilano is manifest in the achievements of the children. As if Froilanos’s achievements are not enough, those of the children give added significance to the well known and age-old adage ” if you want to know about the parents, look at the children “.
Alfredo Froilano, chemical engineer, entrepreneur and writer lives with his family in Montevideo, Uruguay. Maria Eugenia teaches English language and literature at the American High School in Sao Paulo, Brazil where she lives with her family. Victor Froilano, one of the world’s most renowned civil engineers and his family live in Brazil, when he is not trotting the globe problem-solving. Francisco Paulo, electronic engineer and entrepreneur, is based in Burnt Hills, New York where he and his family reside. He still travels the lecture circuit. Maria Cristina is a physician who now lives in Kauai, Hawaii, where she had moved with her family and has since retired. Maria Margarida , a nurse, lives with her family in Faro, Algarve, Portugal, where she is presently the Chief Nurse and Health Administrator for the province.
Goa has been struggling with its part in honouring this great patriot and son of the soil. After distancing themselves from the very son who had done so much for them and their self-respect, Goans and Goa are attempting to correct, even though belatedly, the unfortunate injustice to Froilano. In February 1987, a solemn ceremony was held at the Institute Menezes Braganca in Panjim to honour Froilano, in the year of the centenary of his birth. On the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary on May 17, 1987, several of Froilano’s former students from Escola Medica de Goa gathered to celebrate the occasion. The then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Eduardo Faleiro, placed a plaque in Froilano’s honour at his place of birth, in the ancestral home in Benaulim. One of the roads from Benaulim to Margao as well as the street passing in front of the Lar de Estudantes, Panjim ( the site of the former home of Dr. Froilano ) were named after him. A. Froilano de Mello Scholarship for the most deserving medical student at the Goa Medical College has also been established. It took time and the efforts of stalwart Goans like Dr. Joao Pacheco de Figueiredo, the former Dean of the Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Goa to begin this process of restitution. Sadly however, Portugal, the country, Froilano represented at so many international scientific meetings, has yet to recognize the contributions of this intellectual giant.
The posting of this biography is one additional attempt to ‘give Froilano his due’. It is also a part of an overall effort to record the magnificent careers and deeds of the great and as yet unsung, sons of Goa’s soil. For our sake, for the sake of our children and for the sake of record itself.
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Compiled for GOACOM by: John J. D’Souza.