Neil Safier

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20062007 Forum on Travel

Neil Safier

Assistant Professor, History, U Michigan


Johns Hopkins University

From Brazilian Bioprospector to Masonic Revolutionary: The Extraordinary Transatlantic Career of Hipólito José da Costa (1774–1823)

A Brazilian-born naturalist turned Freemason, Hipólito José da Costa (1744–1823) spent two years as a spy for the Portuguese in Philadelphia. Dr. Safier will produce a complete annotated translation of Hipólito’s journal recounting his stay in Philadelphia. In that time, Hipólito commented on the customs and mores of the nascent American nation, visited colleges and cultural institutions along the Atlantic seaboard, and met with such early American luminaries as John Adams, Charles Willson Peale, and Thomas Jefferson. Previous studies of Hipólito’s life and works—especially by Brazilian scholars—have focused on his political writings. Safier’s approach will emphasize Hipólito’s formation as a naturalist, following the methodological insights drawn from recent studies on Robert Boyle, Buffon, and Joseph Banks that have demonstrated the close interconnections between political philosophy and the study of natural history in the early modern period.