In 1947, five years after the Catholic University was officially recognized by the Brazilian Government, the creation of the Polytechnical School (Escola Politécnica da PUC-Rio (EPPUC) was authorised. This was the initiative of a group of distinguished professors from the Polytechnical School of the then National University of Brazil – now the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, who were aware of the growing demand for competent engineers.
Initially, the Technical Institute that was idealized would incorporate a School of Architecture and Institutes of Technology, Thermo-Mechanics, Electrotechnical engineering and Metallurgy – thus, clearly constituting an Engineering Center. A School of Sciences, which, in fact, never came into being, would embrace Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. However, as from 1949, the PUC Politechnical School was already investing in research which also included Physics.
In the end of the 1950s, the Institute’s aspirations to engage in research were made real. Though there were quite a few research efforts being undertaken, it was not until 1959 that it was possible to find individuals whose main activity rested on research projects. It was at this point that the Radiochemical Research Lab was founded and paved the way to the inauguration of the Physics Institute, which, in turn, implemented other labs and became responsible for all teaching activities in Physics.
A few years later, the Institute also incorporated the teaching and research endeavors in Math and was turned into the Costa Ribeiro Institute, to honor a distinguished Brazilian physicist, father to one of our current professors in the Department of Physics.
In 1960, PUC-Rio installed a Burroughs 205 mainframe computer on campus. This was to be the first mainframe in Brazil and the first in any Latin American university. It was a tube computer which processed information by means of punched tapes. In 1963, the university raised two new buildings – one to house the Institute of Chemistry and the other one to nest the Van de Graaff Particles Accelerator Laboratory.
On its 25th anniversary, the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro was already a unique institution – different from most other colleges, it was not only centered on educating competent professionals. The emphasis on research was growing rapidly and in 1966 the distinguishing nature of this university crystallized into what was then called the ‘University Reform’.
In July 1966, a work-group was appointed to study the procedures to implement the national university reform principles, led by professors from PUC-Rio. A new Statute was compiled, as well as General Norms.
A committee, appointed by the Rector Father Laercio Dias de Moura, elaborated the Reform project, in October 1967. Among the significant changes introduced in the following year, it is worth highlighting the new unifying principle – as a shift from the traditional structure of juxtaposed institutes and departments. In other words, the new project advocated replacing the old federalist and discrete format, in which schools were made to train professionals, with a new and more flexible organic structure which would give the university its interdisciplinary character and foster the sharing and exchange of ideas, resources and projects to ensure the enhancement of knowledge via an integrative epistemological perspective.
The basic units in the new structure would be the Departments, which would congregate courses in similar or related areas and that could be complemented by service units. Such Departments would also be grouped by fields of knowledge – into larger entities called Centers – which would coordinate the activities of the affiliated units. And – in a pioneering effort – the credit system was introduced.
After the Reform, the Technical Center came to be known as the CTC – Science and Technology Center – incorporating activities of applied and pure theoretical research which turned out to be the dominant focus, even surpassing the purely professionalizing endeavor of training engineers.
The 60’s were, then, years of great productivity, especially in extracurricular activities, as the Center ventured into complementing the regular course offerings that had proven to be insufficient in meeting the needs of the academic community.
This was the beginning of a new PUC – one in which research acquired a unique status.
The 1965/66 annual report announced that the Graduate School of Sciences and Engineering in the CTC was organized with the goal of creating a center of advanced studies to enhance the technical and academic preparation of engineers and scientists, improve the training and development of high-quality professors and foster research.
The excellence and pioneering character of the activities undertaken by the CTC is confirmed by so many illustrative landmarks in the history of education in Brazil . The Center was the first Brazilian graduate program to award a Master’s in Science degree with a major in Mechanical Engineering (1965), to introduce computing in its courses, to implement a nucleus of Scientific Computing and to integrate research and teaching.