The teaching of Engineering in Portugal had its origins in the early Nautical School (Aula Náutica), by decree of 30 July 1765. The city of Porto was an important shipping and trade centre, and the mercantile spirit of its inhabitants was early developed. However, those were very troubled times: trade was being adversely affected by pirates hiding along the shores of North Africa who plundered ships carrying goods.

To solve this problem, Porto businessmen (Homens de Negócio da Praça do Porto) asked the King's permission to build, at their own expense, two frigates of 24 and 30 guns to protect the fleets sailing from the city to the ports in America. Shipbuilding required men capable of commanding and maneuvering the vessels, and thus the Nautical School was founded in Porto. (read further).

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