A tense worldwide geopolitical climate led to the creation of Brazil’s Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA). Tatiana Roque, a historian of Math at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University, explained how the Cold War divide between the United States and the Soviet Union, along with Brazil’s national desire to become a science power, prompted the Brazilian government to create IMPA.  During this period, many global governments created advanced science institutes outside of research universities.


“[Creating these institutions] was important in the constitution of a new nation with this modernizing trend,” the Brazilian mathematician said. “High-level research needed ‘protected spaces’, free from the constraints imposed by universities.”


Read more:



“[Creating these institutions] was important in the constitution of a new nation with this modernizing trend”, said Tatiana

In 1951, the Brazilian government created the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) — two years after launching the Brazilian Center for the Research in Physics. As part of its policy, CNPq created elite institutes in science.  IMPA launched in 1952, and initial affiliate researchers and directors included Lélio Gama, Maurício Peixoto, and Leopoldo Nachbin.


IMPA was inaugurated during a period when applied mathematics was becoming the most prestigious type of mathematics and the United States was considered a leader. For Brazilian mathematicians, it was important to be connected with Americans, Roque said. Historical connections with France enabled Brazilian mathematicians’ strong foundation in mathematical theory. From 1951 to 1971, Brazil underwent an Americanization that imbibed culture (music, art) and influenced IMPA and its mathematicians. Roque showed artwork during her presentation that reflected this American influence.


During IMPA’s initial two decades, Brazil emerged as a leader in dynamical systems theory. This helped to develop a modern image of Brazil. Groundbreaking work in dynamical systems required little tradition in mathematics and helped forge a synthesis between two trends: A hint of applied mathematics (Russian and American influence) and a research program with a classificatory verve (French and American influence).


The 1964 military coup led to a windfall of money in sciences in Brazil.  American foundations also started to contribute to the sciences in Brazil.  Roque ended her presentation at ICM 2018 with a slide that showed the amount of public investment in Brazilian sciences from 2005 until 2017.  Since 2014, Brazil has experienced a massive decrease in its funding for the sciences.