Joaquim Jose Machado, a Portuguese military engineer and surveyor, was the son of Francisco Jose Machado and his wife Maria da Gloria. He studied engineering and surveying at the Polytechnic School in Lisbon. In October 1869 he joined the 10th Infantry Regiment of the Portuguese army, completed his officer training, and was appointed in the engineering section of the army. He was promoted to Captain in August 1876 and the next year arrived in Mozambique, with the rank of major, as director of public works, a post he held to 1880.
In 1878 Machado published a paper (in Portuguese), "Mozambique", in the Boletin da Sociedade de Geographia de Lisboa (Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Lisbon) and proposed a railway line from Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) to the Transvaal border. The Portuguese authorities sent him to the South African Republic (Transvaal) to discuss the construction of a railway all the way from Pretoria to Maputo, and to make a preliminary survey of the route. He arrived in Pretoria in January 1883 and started his survey of the route in August that year. The work was interrupted from November 1883 to July 1884, during which time he visited Portugal, but the survey was completed in December 1884. His report to the Portuguese government was completed in 1885 and was published in Lisbon. The Geographical Society of Lisbon furthermore requested him to report on the Republic, which he did in a series of papers to the society after his return to Lisbon in 1885. These addresses were published collectively as "De Lourenco Marques a Pretoria...", in the society's Boletin (1885). He described the territory in general, and more particularly the towns Pretoria and Lydenburg, social life in the republic, its commercial relations with Mozambique, political developments in the territory and surrounding regions, and the railway question. In a separate report to the society he described his survey. An English translation, Descriptive memorandum of the preliminary survey of the Transvaal section of the railway between Lourenco Marques and Pretoria was published in London in 1886.
The two governments organised the building of the line, each in its own territory. In December 1887 the Delagoa Bay and East African Railway Company, which was building the railway in Mozambique, announced that the work had been completed to the Transvaal border. However, Machado and Johan F.B. Rissik* had surveyed the border between the two territories at Komatiepoort that year and found that, as a result of a mistake in surveying, it was some 10 km further west than the company had assumed. During the resulting dispute the Portuguese confiscated the railway line on the grounds that it had not been completed in time. But when the matter was taken to arbitration the company received one million pounds in compensation.
Machado became inspector of public works for the overseas provinces of Portugal in 1886. He attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in July 1887 and was promoted to Colonel in November 1895. During 1888 he made a survey of the proposed Mossamedes railway in Angola. In 1889 he published two further lengthy papers on Mozambique and the surrounding territories under the general title "Questoes africanas" in the Boletin da Sociedade de Geographia de Lisboa. A further paper on the administration of the districts Manica and Sofala by the Companhia de Mozambique (Ibid, 1895) followed a few years later. From January 1890 to 1900, and again from 1914 to his retirement in 1919, he was governor-general of Mozambique and did much to develop the Baia de Maputo area. After leaving Mozambique he served on a delegation appointed to establish the boundary between Angola and Barotseland (now part of Zambia) in 1902 and subsequently was involved also in establishing the boundaries of Macau. He was promoted to General in October 1908.
At the time of his death in 1925 Machado was president of the Portuguese Red Cross. He was married to Mariana Cardoso de Melo, with whom he had three surviving children. Vila Machado in Mozambique (along the railway from Beira to Harare) and Machadodorp (along the railway from Maputo to Pretoria) were named after him.