People that left their
mark on the Foundation
Nuno Grande, medical doctor, researcher and professor. Founder, alongside Corino de Andrade, of the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS), Nuno Grande was director of the Anatomy Department of this Institute, which he chaired from 1981 to 1983 and from 1985 to 1987. He was also Vice-Dean of the University of Porto and a member of the Advisory Board of the NATO Scientific Committee.
“There are very few people whom I have classified throughout life as my Masters. Undoubtedly however, Professor Nuno Grande is one for me, for his inner strength, his integrity, the positive and constructive way he knows how to be in life, his ability to accomplish and, above all, his ability to love”. These words are from Luís Portela, chairman of the BIAL Foundation. They were delivered during a tribute to Nuno Grande, and they are very demonstrative of the Foundation founder's appreciation for Professor Nuno Grande.
The link between them significantly pre-dates the Constitution of the BIAL Foundation, of which Nuno Grande would become one of the first three administrators.
According to the chronicles, Nuno Grande invited Luís Portela, then 27, to be part of the faculty of the then fledgling Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS). But Luis Portela found himself “obliged” to refuse the invitation, choosing to leave his clinical and academic career to dedicate himself to BIAL, from which he had inherited a share from his father. Years later, with the BIAL Award having been created, Nuno Grande was invariably appearing on the Award Jury, as representative of the ICBAS Scientific Council.
Luís Portela and Nuno Grande then began to share ideas about possible improvements to the BIAL Award and the scientific patronage of BIAL. Nuno Grande was thus linked to the genesis of the constitution of the Foundation, where he held the position of Member of the Board nominated by the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities.
Nuno Grande was linked to the Foundation for over 20 years, having left its management bodies at 75, due to the statutes that he helped to write.
For Luís Portela, Nuno Grande was a “force of nature”. And at the time of the tribute paid to him while still alive, on the occasion of the 7th “Behind and Beyond the Brain” Symposium in 2008, he stated: “Your heart is, in fact, bigger than your family name. Great medical doctor, great teacher, great citizen, great householder, great friend, but, above all, great heart.”
Manuel Duarte Baganha, economist and professor. With a Degree in Economics from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto (FEP), he was part of the Restructuring Commission for the Economics Degree (1977-1978). In 1985, he assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of that institution until 1993, when he retired.
Manuel Baganha’s connection with the BIAL Foundation pre-dates the creation of the Foundation itself. Due to the vicissitudes of life, Luís Portela, a young medical graduate, became chairman of BIAL at the age of 27 in 1979.
Without knowledge of economics and management, Luís Portela, who met Manuel Baganha through a mutual friend, asked for his support, and the professor was available to give him practical management classes, which occurred for about four years. At the same time, Manuel Baganha undertook to assist the management of BIAL, which he did from 1979 to 1985.
This is how, when Luis Portela took the first steps in 1993 to conceive what would become the BIAL Foundation, he invited Manuel Baganha to the institution. On the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, the economist was responsible for defining the administrative and financial areas.
Manuel Baganha was a Member of the Board until he reached 75 years of age, the maximum age permitted by the institution’s statutes. At that time, Manuel Baganha designated Daniel Bessa as his “successor”, who still remains a Member of the Board. Despite his withdrawal from the governing bodies, Manuel Baganha, whom Luís Portela affectionately referred to as “Master of Life”, expressed interest in continuing to collaborate with the Foundation, which occurred until September 2004, the date of his death.
“Manuel Duarte Baganha was honesty personified. A man of integrity, of great simplicity and generosity, he was rigorous and competent in everything he did. If he did something, it was not enough to do it well, it had to be done very well. He had a huge sense of responsibility, fantastic intelligence and a great strategic vision”, as the chairman of the BIAL Foundation stressed in October 2015, in a simple tribute to the Professor.
Robert Morris was a professor, psychologist and researcher. He was the first professor of parapsychology at the Koestler Parapsychology unit at the University of Edinburgh, where he taught from December 1985 to 2004.
An advisor for more than 25 PhDs in parapsychology, he has become a great promoter of this scientific discipline, visiting and supporting various parapsychology centres around the world.
President and representative of the Parapsychological Association within the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Robert Morris was also president of the Psychology Division of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
A friend of the BIAL Foundation, this is how Luís Portela remembers the scientist. Robert Morris participated in the 1st “Behind and Beyond the Brain” Symposium as a speaker and was later a major contributor to the institution.
Luís Portela was impressed by the serene, rigorous and simultaneously passionate way Robert Morris made his speech, entitled “Recent developments in experimental parapsychology” and he understood that he was before “a human being of an extraordinary dimension”.
From then on, Robert Morris participated in all other organising committees of the Symposia held by the Foundation. In April 1998, he became a member of the Scientific Board.
His influence has been felt both in the review and evaluation of many applications for the Grants programme for Scientific Research, and in his wise advice.
It was by the hand of Robert Morris that the Foundation was received in Edinburgh to better analyse and draw support for parapsychology, a field he had studied since 1964 and in which he was one of the world’s leading specialists.
Robert Morris offered to receive Portuguese PhD students in his university department, which actually happened. He also had the opportunity to give lectures and advise Portuguese universities that showed some interest in parapsychology.
Alongside this activity, Robert Morris was himself a recipient of a BIAL Foundation grant as a researcher.
The chairman of the BIAL Foundation does not hesitate to say that Robert Morris “was indeed a very valuable contributor to the BIAL Foundation, which he has always done without payment.” Luís Portela goes further: “On a personal level, everyone at the Foundation has made a great friend.
For me, Bob – as I quickly got used to calling him – became one of my greatest friends”.
Robert Morris died in August 2004 at the age of 62.
Maria de Sousa, medical doctor, scientist, writer and professor. In 1964, after graduating in Medicine, she began a career in scientific research that took her through England, Scotland and the United States. In 1985, she returned to Portugal and was Professor of Immunology at the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS).
With great scientific production, she published in some of the most respected scientific journals, such as Nature and the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
With a broad and widely awarded curriculum, Maria de Sousa’s connection with the BIAL Foundation began just as she won another award. It was in 1994, when the management of the BIAL Award, which at the time was already ten years old, passed to the Foundation. Maria de Sousa was the big winner. From then on, her connection with the Foundation intensified: from award-winner, she became a member of the BIAL Award jury, which she repeated three times. She was even president of the jury in 2000.
“A woman of great intelligence, of great capacity for work and of great demand takes on the projects in which she is involved with great dedication, I would even say with passion,” said Luís Portela.
Together with former Minister José Mariano Gago, she promoted a revolution in the science evaluation system in Portugal at the Junta Nacional de Investigação Científica e Tecnológica (National Board of Scientific and Technological Research) (JNICT). A role that she would repeat when, between 2010 and 2014, she assumed the position of Member of the Board at the BIAL Foundation, reorganizing its activity and instilling a higher level of demand and quality.
Maria de Sousa ended her connection to the Foundation’s governing bodies in 2014 when she reached the age limit, having been replaced by Nuno Sousa, from the University of Minho. “Prof. Maria de Sousa will always be one of ours", said Luís Portela.
Maria de Sousa died in April 2020 at the age of 80.
Medical doctor, researcher and professor. Fernando Lopes da Silva has spent his professional career in England and the Netherlands, having taught at the Universities of Utrecht, Twente and Amsterdam. The neuroscientist has devoted himself to research into the biophysical aspects of brain electrical activity and functional organisation of neural networks, including the origin of epileptic phenomena.
From 1993 to 2000, he was director of the newly created Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam.
Fernando Lopes da Silva left his mark on the course and history of the BIAL Foundation. Although based in the Netherlands since 1965, Fernando Lopes da Silva has always maintained a connection with Portugal. His connection to the BIAL Foundation was maintained through his presence at almost every “Behind and Beyond the Brain” Symposium, becoming a member of the Organising Committee in 2003 and its chairman in 2009.
With over 220 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, notably in the Journal of Neuroscience and Brain, Fernando Lopes da Silva has been decorated over the years. These honours include the insignia Grande Oficial da Ordem de Sant’ago de Espada (Grand Officer of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword), awarded to him in 2000, on the occasion of the 3rd Symposium of the BIAL Foundation.
His connection with the Foundation is not limited to participation at the Symposia. From 1997 until the date of his death, in May 2019, Fernando Lopes da Silva was part of the Scientific Board of the BIAL Foundation, of which he served as president from 2016, when he voluntarily left the presidency of the Symposium Organising Committee.
With the creation of the BIAL Award in Biomedicine in 2018, Fernando Lopes da Silva assumed the Presidency of the Jury.
This was a role that he retained after his death, in May 2019, as the Board of Directors of the BIAL Foundation decided not to replace Fernando Lopes da Silva as President of the Jury of the BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2019, the performance of these duties passing to the Vice-President, Maria do Carmo Fonseca.
Considered by Luís Portela to be a discreet person, “but very efficient, a master of an enormous sense of balance, always attentive and active”, he was “the main party responsible for the level of quality that these Symposia have exhibited”.