UK Workshop: The Japanese Scientist in the World

The Japanese Scientist: The Japanese Scientist in the World

Date: 9-10 September, 2019
Location: Cardiff University, United Kingdom

General Objectives:

This two-day workshop is a part of the UK’s Economic and Social Research
Council/Arts & Humanities Research Council (ESRC & AHRC) funded network, The Japanese Scientist in Japan and in the World, with additional support from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai)’s Advanced Sciences Synergy Program. The grant seeks to seed initial discussions and collaborative work to identify and establish the themes and topics for a wider project that seeks to place the history of science & scientists in Japan (& possibly broader East Asia) in a more thoroughly global context. This will not only expand our knowledge of Japanese history & science’s role within it, it will also help to expand our understanding of the history of science as a more fully global phenomenon, revealing and reassessing some of the perhaps under-appreciated consequences of modern science’s Western origins, bringing the history of science and history of modern Japan into dialogue.

Workshop theme:
Following on from our first workshop, The Birth of the Kagakusha (Sokendai, 30 March 2019), which explored the emergence of the scientist as a social and professional category in Japanese society, our next workshop (Cardiff, 9-10 September 2019) will examine how transnational connections and encounters shaped the emergence of the Japanese scientist as a category in both national and international contexts.

As non-Europeans, Japanese scientists initially struggled to find a place for
themselves in the wider transnational networks of science and to disseminate their work overseas. Nagaoka Hantaro, for example, felt that his ‘Saturnian model’ of the atom was unfairly overshadowed by J J Thomson’s model (Kragh 1999, pp.23-14), Oishi Wasaburo struggled to gain recognition in the mid-1920s for his identification of high speed air flows at high altitude (Lewis 2003), and Yukawa Hideki was discouraged by the reception of his meson theory of nuclear interaction, until the later experimental discovery of pions led a transformation in his international status and reputation, eventually including the award of a Nobel prize (Sato 2008, pp.23c-24c).

Furthermore, Japan’s anomalous position as a non-Western nation that built an empire of its own and, indeed, whose empire building was concomitant with the emergence of the Japanese scientist on the global stage, means that exploration of the Japanese case offers an opportunity to go beyond the structures of Western imperialism and take an outside-in look at the development of modern science.

Finally, by exploring at the role of the Japanese ‘periphery’ (such as Hokkaido, Okinawa, Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria) in the creation of scientific knowledge in Japan, we can recast Japan’s position as a peripheral nation in global science. Drawing on the new imperial history approach to interrogate the complex dynamics between imperialism and the creation of scientific knowledge will also allow us to move beyond a nation-based historiography of the development of Japanese science.

The purpose of this workshop is to examine how transnational connections and encounters shaped the emergence of Japanese scientists, considering such questions as:
• How did Japanese scientists manage to penetrate existing transnational
networks of scientific activity?
• What difficulties did they face in doing so and how did they overcome them?
• How did Japanese scientists view and overcome the barrier posed by
language to entering transnational networks of scientific activity?
• How can our understanding of the Japanese scientist be enhanced by
recasting Japan as a ‘centre’ rather than a peripheral nation in global
• How do other Asian cases (China?) compare with the Japanese case?
• What, if anything, was gained by the international scientific community by the fuller participation of Japanese scientists?
• Were there tensions between Japanese scientists’ national position and their transnational connections?

Provisional format
The workshop will take the format of sessions that feature three 20-minute papers followed by a 20 minute response by a discussant and 10 minutes for subsequent discussion. There will also be a final roundtable session focused on the broad themes of the workshop and the overall objectives of the network. Participants are requested to supply a version of their presentation (max 2,500 words) by Monday, 19 August, which will be circulated to workshop participants to facilitate discussion.

• Kragh, Helge, Quantum Generations (Princeton University Press, 1999).
• Lewis, J., ‘Oishi’s Observation: Viewed in the Context of Jet Stream
Discovery,’ Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 84 (2003),
• Sato, Humitaka, ‘Biography of Yukawa Hideki,’ Nuclear Physics A, 805
(2008), pp.21c-28c.

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