ICTP-SAIFR honors Isaias Raw

Written by Ricardo Aguiar on May 14th, 2015. Posted in ICTP-SAIFR Blog


Last Friday the Institute inaugurated a Chair dedicated to the researcher who created the first science kits in Brazil and turned the Butantan Institute into the country’s largest vaccine producer

Isaias Raw is not a physicist. However, he was honored with the name of a Chair in ICTP-SAIFR last Friday. The event reflected one of the most striking aspects of Raw’s brilliant career: in his own words, “I like to meddle in everything that doesn’t concern me”.



The new Chair is the result of a private donation by Gilberto Mautner, nephew of Isaias Raw, who decided to honor his uncle. The donation will partially finance a new professor at ICTP-SAIFR, that will hold the Isaias Raw Chair.

The main similarity between Raw and ICTP-SAIFR is perhaps the initiative to set up research centers in Brazil with world-class standards. Raw’s many initiatives include the creation of the first science kits in Brazil, when he directed the Brazilian Foundation for Science Education Development (Funbec). Raw also founded the publishing houses of the University of São Paulo (USP) and the University of Brasilia (UnB), created the Carlos Chagas Foundation and the Experimental Course of Medicine of USP and, along with Professor Walter Leser, unified the entrance examinations of São Paulo state universities.

In addition, he was director of the Butantan Institute and a major contributor in turning it into the first vaccines production center in the country. His career was recognized with the award of Comendador da Ordem Nacional do Mérito, in 1995, with the Grã-Cruz da Ordem Nacional do Mérito Científico, in 2001, and the Conrado Wessel Award for Science and Culture in 2005.

Watch Prof. Isaias Raw’s lecture

All this despite being arrested and having his rights revoked during the military regime in Brazil. “They thought I was a communist spy,” he joked. “At that time, it was very easy to eliminate someone who was competing with you. It was enough to accuse him of being a communist. That’s what happened to me”.

With humor and honesty, Raw spoke during the event about his life and career, and discussed the current situation of brazilian universities…

There is a disconnection between university and society. One of the reasons why Brazil does not evolve is because universities often mistake innovation with article publication”.


“If an experiment can’t go wrong, there is no reason to do it. Only when it goes wrong the student tries to figure out what went wrong and learns something new. The important thing is not the experiment itself, the important thing is that students draw their own conclusions and learn”.

and about political and economical aspects of Brazil…

“We are in a big country that attracts international interest. However, we are selling everything. We are lacking administrative competence”.

For these and other reflections the lecture of Isaias Raw deserves to be seen by students and professors, scientists and non-scientists. Raw may not be a theoretical physicist, but ICTP-SAIFR’s tribute could not be more deserved.