Welcome to my web site.
I am a historian of science working at the Centro Interuniversitário de História das Ciências e da Tecnologia, at the University of Lisbon (CIUHCT-UL), and I teach at the Master Program in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Here you'll find information on my research, my papers, books and other topics. I have a number of ongoing projects with students and collaborators and will post some information here.

Research that's keeping me busy:

The edition of Pedro Nunes's Works (Obras de Pedro Nunes), by the Lisbon Academy of Sciences and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is still my most absorbing project. The first six volumes are published: that is, ALL printed works by Pedro Nunes are now available in a modern, annotated edition. They can be bought at the Bookshop of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The volume on Nunes' manuscripts (vol. VII) is nearly completed; it should be ready in a couple of months. I am already working hard on vol. VIII (biographical materials and documents). See here for updated information.

I am working with Bernardo Mota on the edition of Francisco de Melo's mathematical works. Melo (ca. 1490-1536) was a fine mathematician, perhaps the best Portuguese mathematician in the generation before Pedro Nunes. Volume I, the Latin text and translation, is ready: Bernardo Mota and Henrique Leitão, Francisco de Melo: Obras Matemáticas. [vol. I: Texto Latino e Tradução] (Lisboa: Centro de Estudos Clássicos e Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, 2014) 506 pp. We are now working on volume IIstudies and commentary, which we plan to publish in 2016. See here for more information.

Luana Giurgevich and I have been engaged for some years on a major research about old libraries in Portugal. Our initial objective was to study the circulation of scientific books in Portugal but we soon realized that a broader approach was necessary. We ended up examining in detail the contents of hundreds of old libraries - Luana's archival research has been truly outstanding. Our book - Clavis Bibliothecarum: Catálogos e Inventários de Livrarias de Instituições Religiosas em Portugal até 1834 - an exhaustive list of nearly 1.000 catalogues of ancient libraries plus related documents, is scheduled to appear in 2015.

Together with Thomas Horst (a post-doctoral researcher at our group) I have been investigating the circulation of scientific and technological knowledge between Portugal and Germany in the early modern period. The topic is not completely new, of course, but we are working with new documents, in particular an important and recently re-discovered manuscript by Leonard Thurneysser (1513-1595/6) written while at the house of the famous Portuguese humanist Damião de Góis. Prof. Bernardo Herold is also working with us and we are collaborating with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

My work with Joaquim Gaspar (a brilliant expert on cartometry at our group) is now published in two papers: Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão, "Squaring the Circle: How Mercator constructed his Projection in 1569", Imago Mundi, 66 (2014) 1-24, and Henrique Leitão and Joaquim Alves Gaspar, "Globes, rhumb tables and the pre-history of the Mercator projection", Imago Mundi, 66 (2014) 180-195. Joaquim and I are now looking in detail into other maps and will publish more in the near future.

Rui Magone (in Berlin) is one of my best friends and an expert sinologist. I am working with him on the edition of the Tianwenlüe 天问略 [Epitome of Questions on the Heavens], a very important astronomical text written in China in 1614/15 by the Portuguese Manuel Dias. The text contains the first report of Galileo's telescopic discoveries (of 1609-1611) to appear in Chinese. You can check the blog where we discuss our progress. See here for more information.

Together with Samuel Gessner (a former post-doctoral researcher at our group, presently a collaborator) I have been studying the mathematical/scientific imagery in eighteenth-century glazed tiles (azulejos) in Portugal. Some of our research has already been published in two papers and more will appear soon. See: Henrique Leitão and Samuel Gessner, "Euclid in tiles: the mathematical azulejos of the Jesuit college in Coimbra", Mathematische Semesterberichte, 61.1 (2014) 1-5; and Samuel Gessner and Henrique Leitão, «Una tribus ratio : Ikonographie der Wissensvermittlung und Selbstdarstellung der Jesuiten im Thesensaal des Kollegs in Lissabon», Mathematische Semesterberichte, 61 (2014). 

Francisco Romeiras and I are editing the Obra Selecta do Pe. Luís Archer, to be published by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. This will be a 4-vol. publication of the work of this celebrated geneticist and expert in bioethics. The first volume is scheduled to ap
pear in February 2015.

Translation of ancient scientific texts: with a group of colleagues (Bernardo Mota, Armando Martins, Samuel Gessner, Carlos Sá, Helena Avelar, Joaquim Gaspar), I have been working on the translation of Latin scientific texts. See here for more details.


I am at the Editorial Board of HoST: Journal of History of Science and Technology. Be sure to check the latest issue.

I am at the Editorial Advisory Board of LIAS -Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources.
Take a look at it.

Member of the «Conselho de Redacção» of Revista Brotéria.

12 March 2015: New Book !
Bernardo Mota and Henrique Leitão, Francisco de Melo: Obras Matemáticas. [vol. I: Texto Latino e Tradução] (Lisboa: Centro de Estudos Clássicos e Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, 2014) 506 pp [ISBN: 978-972-9376-31-3]. 

March 2015: My new paper with Francisco Romeiras is now online (and free access): Henrique Leitão and Francisco Malta Romeiras, "The Role of Science in the History of Portuguese Anti-Jesuitism", Journal of Jesuit Studies, 2 (2015) 77-99.

22 December 2014. My research Unit (CIUHCT), led by Ana Simões, was one of the 11 research units in Portugal that got the rate of "Exceptional" (25/25) in the international evaluation process commissioned by the Portuguese agency FCT and carried out by the European Science Foundation (ESF). I am absolutely delighted. [FCT site with national results].

12 December 2014. The exhibition "360º - Science Discovered" that took place at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2013 received two prizes of the "Associação Portuguesa de Museologia" (APOM): the prize "Best Exhibition", and the prize "Best museography". I was the Curator of the exhibition, but here are some of the names of the superb team I was privileged to work with and that really deserve it: Francisca Moura, Mariano Piçarra, Teresa Carvalho, Luís Moreira, Joana Nascimento, and many others. 

12 December 2014. I was awarded the Prémio Pessoa 2014. It is an immense honor and an even greater responsibility.  

20-21 November 2014

11 November 2014. I was on national TV (RTP2) at the well known show of Paula Moura Pinheiro, "Visita Guiada", talking about the "Class on the Sphere" (Aula da Esfera) and Pedro Nunes.

5 November 2014. Jennifer Frazer at Scientific American's blog The Artful Amoeba cites my paper with Samuel Gessner on the Euclidean tiles. The post is great: accurate, detailed, and very well written.

October 2014. My (second) paper with Samuel Gessner, «Una tribus ratio : Ikonographie der Wissensvermittlung und Selbstdarstellung der Jesuiten im Thesensaal des Kollegs in Lissabon», Mathematische Semesterberichte, 61 (2014) is now online. 

September 2014. My first paper with Joaquim Gaspar has reached the list of "Most Read Articles" of Imago Mundi -- Not bad for a paper published less than a year ago...  
June 2014. My (second) paper with Joaquim Gaspar is now online. This is the second of two papers that finally (we hope) explain how Mercator did it. See here: Henrique Leitão and Joaquim Alves Gaspar, "Globes, rhumb tables and the pre-history of the Mercator projection", Imago Mundi, 66 (2014) 180-195. 

April 2014. My paper with Samuel Gessner, "Euclid in tiles: the mathematical azulejos of the Jesuit college in Coimbra", Mathematische Semesterberichte, 61.1 (2014) 1-5 is now online.

February to April 2014. 
Exhibition at the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (BNP): Luís Serrão Pimentel e a Ciência em Portugal no século XVIICurators: Miguel Soromenho and I.


I will be teaching "A Ciência da Antiguidade ao Renascimento", Minor.
Classes start on Fev. 18.

Recent and next speaking engagements:

5 March. "¿Historia de la cartografia como historia de la ciencia?". Opening address at the "IV Workshop Internacional Història de la Cartografia Ibèrica", Institut Cartogràfic i Geològic de Catalunya, Barcelona.

20 March. Roundtable at the 46th annual conference of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (EUA). 

3 May. "Abraham Zacut in Portugal: Texts and context", paper at the conference on Abraham Zacut, Jerusalem.

11 May. [with Antonio Sanchez] "Demasiado para contar: Modos narrativos de los textos ibéricos sobre la naturaleza de las Indias", paper at the conference: «Uma nova História Natural: Primeiras notícias quinhentistas sobre a natureza das Índias», Barcelona. 

20 May. "A ciência e corte portuguesa no século XVI", invited lecture at the II Workshop História e Ciência, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto.

29 May. "Cada dia um Pegu", paper at the Colóquio Internacional Jorge Ferreira de Vasconcelos - Um Homem do Renascimento, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon.. 

13 July. [with Joaquim Alves Gaspar], "Revisiting Mercator’s world map of 1569. An assessment of navigational accuracy", paper at the 26th International Conference on the History of Cartography, Antwerp. 

4 September. "Geometria e óptica no trabalho de Francisco de Melo (ca. 1490-1536), plenary session at the Escola de Verão 2015 - SPM, Aveiro.

26 September. "O De revolutionibus: Sobre as revoluções das esferas celeste, de Nicolau Copérnico", public lecture at the series: “Um objecto e seus discursos”, Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto. 

Subpages (1): Old Stuff