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Chemistry International

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Volume 41, Issue 3


Pioneers of Japanese Participation in IUPAC

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi
Published Online: 2019-06-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0306


East Asia occupies a substantial position in IUPAC today. The incumbent president for 2018-2019, Qi-Feng Zhou, is from China/Beijing, and three out of ten elected members of the Bureau are from East Asia: Mei-Hung Chiu from China/Taipei, Kew-Ho Lee from Korea, and Ken Sakai from Japan. This region is thus well-represented in the IUPAC leadership. However, this is not how this now global institution looked in the past. Its first president from East Asia was Saburo Nagakura (b. 1920) from Japan who assumed this office from 1981-1982, more than 60 years after the IUPAC was established in 1919. He was followed by Jung-Il Jing from Korea (2008-2009), Kazuyuki Tatsumi (2012-2013) from Japan, and Zhou. In terms of national adhering organizations (NAOs), Japan was the first East Asian nation admitted to IUPAC in 1921, but we had to wait until the late 1970s for all other national chemical communities in East Asia to be officially admitted to the IUPAC: The Chemical Society Located in Taipei in 1959, the Korean Chemical Society in 1963, and the Chinese Chemical Society in 1979. East Asia’s position in the IUPAC is the outcome of a rather long historical process.


  • 1.

    A list of Japanese chemists who served the Bureau of the IUPAC is published in the Chemical Society of Japan’s website: http://csj.jp/csj-en/activities/internat/iupac.html. For the history of Japanese chemistry in general, see, for example, the contribution to this journal by Hitoshi Ohtaki (1932-2006), an elected member of the Bureau for 1996-2003 and also on the Executive Committee of the IUPAC. Hitoshi Ohtaki, “Chemistry in Japan: Lesson from the Past,” Chemistry International 29, Issue 5 (Sept 2007): 12-13 and 18.

  • 2.

    Ohtaki pointed out in 2002 that these cultural issues, especially language barriers, still existed for Japanese chemists until recently. Hitoshi Ohtaki, “Breaking away from the old Three Ss,” Chemistry International 24, Issue 2 (March 2002): 11-12.Google Scholar

  • 3.

    International Association of Chemical Societies (IACS), Extract from the minutes of the third session of the Council, Brussels, September 29-23, 1913. The Tokyo Chemical Society was the adhering body to IACS and delegated three chemists of the Tokyo Imperial University to Brussels meeting: N. Nagai (Unification of physico-chemical symbols), J. Sakurai (Organic chemistry nomenclature, T. Takamatsu (Inorganic chemistry nomenclature), see p.18.Google Scholar

  • 4.

    See R. Fox, “The International Research Council and its unions, 1919-1931”, infra p. 6.Google Scholar

  • 5.

    Kikuchi, Yoshiyuki. “International Relations of the Japanese Chemical Community,” in Igniting the Chemical Ring of Fire: Historical Evolution of the Chemical Communities of the Pacific Rim. edited by Seth C. Rasmussen, 139-155. Singapore: World Scientific, 2018. Google Scholar

  • 6.

    Wada, Masanori. “The Two International Congresses Held in Tokyo in the 1920s: The Rise of the First Generation of Japanese Scientists,” in “Transformation of Chemistry from the 1920s to the 1960s”: Proceedings. Edited by Masanori Kaji et al., 35-41. Tokyo: The Japanese Society for the History of Chemistry, 2016.Google Scholar

  • 7.

    Kubota, Bennosuke ed. Tekichokushi Zassan. Tokyo: Kawade Shobo, 1941. This collection of essays by Matsubara includes Matsubara’s biographical note in English written by one of his early students, Yuji Shibata.Google Scholar

  • 8.

    Union internationale de la chimie pure et appliquée, Comptes rendus 1925, p. 12 and Comptes rendus 1926, pp. 21, 26, 28 and 29.Google Scholar

  • 9.

    For example, Mizushima organized the International Symposium on Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy, Tokyo, Japan, 10–15 September 1962 while he was a bureau member of the IUPAC. See Pure and Applied Chemistry 7, Issue 1 (1963): 1-145. See also Masanori Kaji, “The Transformation of Organic Chemistry in Japan: From Majima Riko to the Third International Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products,” in Kaji et al., op. cit., pp. 14-19.Google Scholar

About the article

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi

Yoshiyuki KIKUCHI < > is a professor of History of Science and Technology at Nagoya University of Economics, in Inuyama, Japan.

Published Online: 2019-06-14

Published in Print: 2019-07-01

Citation Information: Chemistry International, Volume 41, Issue 3, Pages 16–19, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0306.

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©2019 IUPAC & De Gruyter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, please visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.Get Permission

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