Journal rchive Stories

"Kono Yasui" --- Japan's First Female Doctor of Science

2006/03/27: "Kono Yasui" --- Japan's First Female Doctor of Science ---

Kono Yasui, who was born in Kagawa Prefecture in 1880, came to Tokyo immediately after graduation from Kagawa Prefecture Teacher's School at the age of 18 and entered the Science Faculty of Women's Higher Normal School. After graduation, she worked as a teacher for 3 years at a middle school for girls. In 1905, at the age of 25 she joined the graduate course first established at the Women's Higher Normal School as its only science student. She specialized in zoological and botanical sciences under Professor Tomotaro Iwakawa, who was known as a researcher of common fresh water clams. During the first year of the graduate course she presented a paper entitled "Weber's Organ of Carp", which became the first paper written by a female scientist that was printed in the " Doubutsugaku Zasshi (Zoological Magazine). " Although it was suggested that she study  leeches, she declined the recommendation due to her phobia of leeches. Instead she studied the prothallium of salvinia by herself, and presented a paper to the " Shokubutsugaku Zasshi (Botanical Magazine, Tokyo)" (Vol.23 (1909), No.264, pp.20-24) ". This report attracted the attention of Professor Kiichi Miyake at the Agriculture Faculty of Tokyo Imperial University. She was able to advance her research through the guidance on cytology that she received from the professor and the preparation of cellular sections that she conducted by borrowing a microtome from him. In 1911, following the advice of Professor Miyake, she presented the research results in the "Annals of Botany".

In 1914, Kono was able to travel to the U.S where she studied new techniques for investigating biological tissue under Professor Jeffrey at Harvard University, and also started to study coal. Upon returning to Japan, she found it difficult to secure research funds at the Women's Higher Normal School in order to continue her study of coal. However, through the efforts of Professor Kenjiro Fujii at the Botany Course of Tokyo Imperial University and Professor Kenjiro Nakagawa, President of the Women's Higher Normal School, she was able to continue this research for 10 years at Tokyo Imperial University while working as an entrusted researcher of genetics in charge of guiding student experiments. Kono collected coal samples from various places around Japan by entering the deep shafts of  coal mines using a basket. She conducted detailed examinations using completely new techniques and clarified the structural changes of coal plants depending on the degree of carbonization. This was regarded as outstanding research that could not be surpassed by others, and thus bore fruit as the doctorate thesis "Botanical Study on Coals Produced in Japan." In this way, in 1927 the first female doctor of science among universities in Japan was born.

Abstracted and reproduced from:
- Toshiko Miki: "Kono Yasui" --- a biologist who became Japan's first female to obtain a doctorate; published by the Institute for Gender Studies of Ochanomizu University.
- Video: "Images of Female Scientists; Kono Yasui, Chika Kuroda, and Toshiko Yuasa" (April 1999)

- Photographs were added on March 31, 2006.

Kono Yasui
(Provided by the Institute for Gender Studies of Ochanomizu University)