The Emperor’s Chemists at War: Joji Sakurai during the Russo-Japanese and First World Wars, 1904–1919

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chemical Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 11:20 pm EDT

Time: 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Place: 6th Floor Conference Room, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Information: 215-873-8289 or

Free and open to the public.

World War I (1914–1919) has been given an important place in the historiography of chemistry in the twentieth century, especially for its role in triggering the mobilization of chemical expertise for war purposes. In this presentation Kikuchi aims to modify this global picture by applying it to the case of Japan. He will argue that the involvement of civilian chemists with war-related research activities began there much earlier, during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), by focusing on the R&D of tear gas by Joji Sakurai, one of the elite chemists in Meiji, Japan. Kikuchi contends that these two wars transformed Sakurai from a civilian chemistry professor into a national figure at the crossroads of science, technology, and the military, who significantly influenced the course of development of the Japanese scientific research system in the interwar years.

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi was awarded his B.A. and M.Sc. in history of science from the University of Tokyo, and then a Ph.D. in history of science from the United Kingdom’s Open University in 2006. In 2008–2009 he was the Sidney M. Edelstein Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Currently, Kikuchi is a postdoctoral fellow in the History of Modern Physical Sciences, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.