Brazilian entomologist Ângelo Machado was honoured by the renowned Zootaxa scientific magazine. He was worthy of a special edition covering his life and legacy, with a total of some 400 pages, something which only very rarely happens to a living scientist.
Now aged 81, Ângelo Machado’s Curriculum Vitae includes the titles of entomologist, neurologist, environmentalist and writer. His main passions include dragonflies, having described about 100 of the 859 species of dragonflies known to exist in Brazil.
Mr Machado is also the founder of the Biodiversitas Foundation, which seeks to preserve endangered species, and was the president of the environment committee of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), as well as being a member of the Editorial Board of two famous science magazines, namely Ciência Hoje (Science Today) and Ciência Hoje das Crianças (Children’s Science Today).
His passion for dragonflies started very early
He started to collect insects when he was very young, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and took his first steps in a more structured scientific study when he was 16, when he presented the father of Brazilian odonatology, Newton Dias dos Santos, to his collection of dragonflies. He was given a study book, which gave him further inspiration for this pursuit.
However, Mr Machado graduated as a medical doctor from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), a course where the laboratories and research centres had better infrastructure. Because of this, even though he practiced the medical profession, his studies were concentrated on the neuroanatomy of the pineal gland.
It was only in 1987, after years of dedication to dragonflies as a hobby, that he became a professor of entomology at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, starting out in literature and scientific publicity.
Mr Machado’s collection has 35 thousand dragonflies
Nowadays, Mr Machado has 55 species described in his honour, including dragonflies, butterflies, spiders, bees, ladybirds, beetles, and many others. His private collection of dragonflies was recently donated to the UFMG and is the second largest in Latin America, with 35 thousand specimens of over 1,050 species – the largest collection of all is the one at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
As a writer, he has published 40 books (37 of which are children’s books) and seven plays, all of which have themes based on nature. Among the titles he has published are “Little Red Riding Hood and the Brazilian maned Wolf” and “A survival manual for parties and receptions with a scarce buffet”, but his major work was “The Old Man on the Mountain – An Amazonian adventure” which won the Jabuti Prize (Brazil’s most important award for literature) in 1992.
Despite his advanced age, Ângelo Machado continues to work, writing, giving lectures, accompanying students, and describing species of dragonflies.