Lino de Pombo

Lino de Pombo

Born in Cartagena on January 7, 1797 and died in Bogotá on November 20, 1862.

First Colombian engineer; defender of Cartagena in 1815; founding professor of the Military College; first compiler of New Granada laws; diplomatic and Foreign Minister during the governments of Santander and Márquez.

Eulogy to Don Lino de Pombo

Homenaje a Don Lino de Pombo

As part of the 23th National Meeting of Faculties of Engineering in 2003, there was a Eulogy to Don Lino de Pombo. The following is the speech by Carlos Julio Cuartas at this ceremony.

200 years ago in Cartagena de Indias, the beautiful city that welcomes us, two brothers lived. They were equally remarkable, of noble ancestor, born in Popayán at the home of Esteban de Pombo y Gómez and Tomasa de Ante y Valencia. They both were educated at the Higher School of Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Santafé. The Eldest, José Ignacio, established in Cartagena since 1784 and was now Prior of the Royal Consulate of Commerce of Cartagena. He was a renowned promoter of science and friend to fellow countrymen Francisco José de Caldas who currently was in Quito Province commissioned to the Royal Botanical Expedition one year before. Also friend to the Cadiz wise man José Celestino Mutis, José Ignacio had hosted Alexander von Humboldt, the German Explorer that currently was at New Spain. The other brother was Manuel, the youngest of the Pombo y Ante. He arrived to Cartagena in 1795 after four years at the Spanish Court and just a few months after his marriage with Beatriz O’Donnell, lady-in-waiting of the Queen, back in the Peninsula. 34-years-old Manuel, intellectual and politician as his brother, was Treasurer at the City Consulate.


As that time, the dawn of the 19th century, Jefferson was ruling the nation that had achieved independence from the British Crown, while Bonaparte, a French military led by ambitions and who had no qualms about challenging the authority of the Roman Pontiff, threatened the rule of Charles IV. In the New Kingdom of Granada, a colony established by the Spanish three centuries ago and which would receive in 1803 the second to last viceroy: Don Antonio Amar y Borbón, the work at the Astronomical Observatory, emblem to Science, was being concluded while Nariño, the Precursor, left prison after a six year sentence for his political views.


200 years ago too, steam was having its time, especially in England which succumbed to the charms of that would be known as the Industrial Revolution. In the paradise of machines, a privileged place was for the first locomotive, the iron horse, which at that time was being conceived in the mind of an English engineer to hit the rails in 1804 announcing the railway era. Adding to the Reason and the Liberty, Steam had come to the historical processes that would break the chains and widen the boundaries of the human domains.


The soil of Cartagena had already been consecrated by the love and humility of a Jesuit who in the 17th century defended the dignity of slaves; by the courage of a noble sea man who heroically confronted the threat of British subjects in the 18th century, and for the genius of a military engineer who finished later that century the fortifications of the city which started 160 years before. Pedro Claver, Blas de Leso, and Antonio de Arévalo are the highlighted pillars that hold that monument to the greatness of the human being that the city founded by Don Pedro de Heredia is.

That was the air that Manuel de Pombo’s firstborn breathed. The air that encoutarage the dreams of a six-year-old who brobably went to Sunday Mass held at the Catherdal Curch where he had received the baptism water. He grew up now in jugement and character at the shadow of his elders, and whose name would be widely recongnized among his contemporaries for his virtues and deeds. A name that, as of today, has been recorded by the chisel in the same ancient walls that kept the echo of his first steps.

I heard the name of Lino de Pombo first on the lips of Alfredo D. Bateman, 20 years ago. I learned then that the unforgettable teacher and scholar Don Lino, a key figure in the history of Colombian Engineering had been “the first Colombian who received the title of Civil Engineer and that, thanks to his pen, Colombia had a first biographic review of Francisco José de Caldas, written in 1852, 36 years after the execution of this Popayan wise man.

After a while, I learned that a distinguished Cartagenero colleague, José Enrique Rizo Pombo, belonged to the family of Don Lino. Thanks to him I got additional information about a figure who still lacked a face in my memory. This deficiency was overcome in 1988 when I met the reproduction of a photograph of Don Lino, published in 1915 in the Revista Moderna (Modern Journal) and in Anales de Ingeniería (Annals of Engineering). Soon after I found in the Historical Archives in Popayán the text of the speech delivered by Lino de Pombo in 1830 for the opening of studies at Universidad del Cauca, as well as some documents in his own hand, on which he had signed. Those were the first signs of a friendship that binds me today to the figure we tribute today and who is among the greatest of Cartagena and the country, and who, of course, notably stands up in the Colombian Engineers gallery.


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