Tectonics and Structural Geology

Ana Margarida Neiva – A woman as hard as granite

Ana Margarida Neiva – A woman as hard as granite

Women in Tectonics and Structural Geology by Lucia Perez-Diaz


Ana Neiva was born on May 7 1941 in Cedofeita, Porto, northwest Portugal – a city carved in granite.

Her childhood and youth were spent in Coimbra, where her father worked. João Cotelo Neiva was an eminent geologist and professor at the University of Coimbra, one of Europe’s oldest universities. His influence was decisive for her interest in geology and her scientific career.


Ana Neiva with her father and one of her students, Rui Teixeira, at the end of a field day in september 2008 (credit: Rui Teixeira).


Ana Neiva graduated from the University of Coimbra in 1963 with that year’s best marks in the faculty of sciences, for which she earned two prestigious honours in 1964. Soon after that, in 1966, she was awarded a NATO fellowship and moved to the University of Cambridge, UK for her doctoral research under the guidance of Dr. S.R. Nockolds. In those days Portugal was under a conservative dictatorship regime, which made it hard for women to study abroad. Nonetheless, Ana Neiva earned her PhD in mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry in 1971, with a thesis on “Geochemistry of late stage granitic rocks from northern Portugal”.

In 1972 Ana Neiva returned to Portugal to become an Auxiliary Professor at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra. During this time, Portugal was in a revolution. On 25th of April 1974 the dictatorship was ousted by a peaceful coup. This is now known as the “Carnation Revolution”. In 1975/76, after the revolution she spent time in Brazil as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Brasilia where she led the geochemistry laboratory.

Ana Neiva then continued her career as an Auxiliary Professor at the University of Porto from 1977 to 1979, where she later became an Associate Professor. She returned to the University of Coimbra in 1983 as an Associate Professor and obtained her tenure, and in 1985 became full Professor proving advanced expertise in mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry. On May 7 2011, Professor Ana Neiva was designated Emeritus Professor at the University of Coimbra.

Her main research subject was petrology and geochemistry, but many of her articles, mainly on granitic rocks as markers of deformation, were also relevant contributions to a better understanding of Variscan and Iberian geology, as well as to the national geological mapping programs. Professor Ana Neiva was totally devoted to science, academia and teaching from early on in her career, and her dedication to geochemistry brought prestige to Portuguese science and academia and her country.

Ana was willing to travel anywhere to do the best work she could. As well as a regular and enthusiastic presence in scientific committees of geochemistry conferences, she loved to travel and participate in renowned conferences worldwide. Namely Goldschmidt, IMA and PEG (International Symposium on Granitic Pegmatites). She also collaborated with researchers from fifteen countries, with almost every Portuguese university, and with the geological survey (National Laboratory of Energy and Geology -LNEG). Besides work, which was her greatest passion, she never missed a grape harvest season at her farm in S. Mamede de Ribatua, in the Douro Valley.


Ana Neiva, receiving the free IMA2010 registration certificate from Tamás G. Weiszburg at 19th Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference, 21-26 June, 2009; Davos, Switzerland.


She was a member of the science academies of Lisbon, New York and Brazil, and of the scientific councils of the faculties of sciences of both the universities of Porto and of Coimbra. Her scientific output was constant and proliferous from 1966 until her final days. During her long career she supervised eleven PhD students and ten MSc students. Her competence and extraordinary capacity for hard work were recognized by all, but mostly by her disciples and students.


Professor Ana Neiva was a very present supervisor, closely following her student’s work and effort, providing constructive criticism and constant guidance. Furthermore, she promoted several opportunities for her students to travel to institutions abroad to collaborate with other researchers, learn analytical techniques and acquire quality data. She was a firm believer that these opportunities would open doors and broaden her student’s horizons and would ultimately be an invaluable experience for their future scientific careers and personal growth. As she never married, she considered her students as a family.


Ana Neiva (second from right) in a mining gallery at PEG2009 (Eastern Brazilian Pegmatite Province, Brasil) (image credit: Encarnación Roda-Robles).


Urgeiriça mine, Portugal, 1981, Ana Neiva, (with glasses), and students (image credit:  Ângela Almeida).


In 2017, she received a diagnosis of illness, but her remarkable inner strength did not stop her from working until the end. She died on May 3rd 2019 in Coimbra and is buried in S. Mamede de Ribatua.

Ana Neiva was recognized for her rigour, hard work, remarkable dedication to science, respect and work ethics as a researcher and as a Professor. She is remembered as a supportive, helpful and advice-giving person.

Definitely one of the most productive and prestigious international geologists and Portuguese scientists. For all of this, Professor Ana Neiva was and will continue to be an inspiration to us all –  as hard as granite, but also capable of melting when needed.


Written by Elisa Gomes, Rita Solá, Margarida Antunes

We appreciate the text contribution provided by colleagues from Ana Neiva´s research group: Manuela Vinha, Paulo Bravo, Rui Teixeira, Thomas Campos, Paula Carvalho, Selma Lima, Mafalda Costa, Ana Reis, Susana Henriques and Marina Cabral


Ana Neiva relaxing  at  a moment during PEG2009 Symposium  (Olinda, Brasil) (image credit: Selma Lima).



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