Explore the roots of Shimazu which cradled a Nobel laureate engineer
Visit Shimazu: overview
The Shimazu Co. is a legendary science equipment manufacturer in Kyoto, and it also became famous to rear a Nobel laureate engineer. This Shimazu set up the Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall in 1975 commemorating its 100th anniversary.
I had a chance to visit this museum while traveling in Kyoto last month. The museum has provided many valuable exhibits of epoch-making products of company and memorable pictures with interesting episodes, particularly, focusing the stories about its founding period. I’ve enjoyed very much of visiting. This is a short description at this time.
Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall HP:
♣ Significance of Shimazu Co. and its foundation
<Origin of Shimazu company>
The Shimazu Co. was founded in 1875 by Genzo Shimazu, who was born in the local shop selling Buddhist goods. According to the museum, Genzo was showing curiosity on the scientific subject from his childhood, and captivated by physics and chemistry as he was growing. And, in his youth age, he decided to work for “Seimi-Kyoku” (Industrial Training House) which had newly established in Kyoto, as a junior training staff. A couple of years later, he launched a repair workshop of mechanics and equipment imported from abroad. And during this period, he successfully completed a lengthy science equipment list “” Equipment Inventory Table of Rika” for the first time in Japan.
This was the start of challenging work of him in the field of science education equipment producer. Then, Shimazu Co. was formally established in 1895. The first business was to offer the science education tools named “Specimen project”. And even today the Specimen Work is maintained and developed as one of the business pillars in Shimazu with large scale.
<Next business opportunity “Balloon Project”>
The other development chance emerged when the Kyoto governor asked Genzo to make up a huge helium balloon for the Kyoto’s memorial event in 1877. Genzo had achieved brilliant success in this work based by only his primitive experience and a pictorial outline of the balloon. It is said that this launching of balloon had got magnificent success and appreciated much by Kyoto people. This event really exalted the name of Shimazu and broadened his business field. In the Memorial Hall, the pictures depicting this moment of balloon launching is displayed in large as a highlight of its exhibition. (I have happened observing the “balloon launching picture” being posted at Kyoto Station as a symbolic advertisement of the Shimadzu Co.)
<Starting battery business of Second generation of Shimazu>
After Genzo was gone, the second generation of Shimazu, actually named Genzo Jr., became responsible to continue in business. And Genzo Jr. was trying to endeavor into the electric manufacturing business along with keeping original works. Then he cultivated the storage batteries technology based on the “Readily reactive lead powder production method” and could win the own patent by them. In 1897, the company completed the production of “Lead type acid battery” (the beginning of industrial production of accumulator batteries in Japan). That led the foundation of “Japan Battery Co.” which produces “GS Brand Battery” (naming after Genzo Shimazu) and became later developing to the current GS Yuasa Co. in the coming years.
<Development of Genzo Jr.’s X-Ray equipment>
Another business that Genzo Jr. initiated was a project of the development of X-Ray equipment. It was the challenging project which had tackled after the only two years of the X-ray’s discovery by Roentgen. But Shimazu successfully accomplished an educational X-ray model in 1897 even though level was still primitive one. In 1909, he also published a medical X-ray device, “New Aurora”, which was the first Japan’s domestic medical product. This equipment was widely adopted in medical world in Japan. The reproduction model of the original X-ray equipment is now displayed in the museum.
The company also launched the fiber-made human doll project as a Shimazu’s peculiar business, such as producing fashion mannequins (Shimadzu mannequin) and human body structure models (Human Anatomical Model 1911) for the medical education purposes. This project was later handed over to the “Kyoto Science Co” as a Shimazu’s subsidiary compny.
<Further advancement of Shimazu as medical precision equipment>
After the Genzo Jr.’s period, the business of Shimadzu was expanded broadly towards the more modernized mechanical equipment field. Then the company developed spectroscopic equipment in 1934, Japan’s first electron microscope in 1947, the “Gastromatograph” in 1967, and bio-magnetic measuring equipment in 1995. In this way, Shimazu has gradually established its solid and strong business base in the field of medical inspection equipment, industrial machinery and so on, as a leading figure. These series results of development are shown well in the exhibition in the the chronologypanel and real goods, models and others.
<Epoch making Tanaka’s Novel Prize>
Among others, the epoch making for the company would be the event regarding the winning of the Nobel Prize in the field of chemistry by Koichi Tanaka (a senior engineer of Shimazu) in 2002. The prize was awarded to the successful discovery and exploring “Mass spectrometry Ionization Method” developed by him. This honorable scene of award is explicitly displayed in the exhibition.
♣ Various exhibition of the memorial Hall
Many medical equipment, experimental tools, scientific specimens, etc. are abundantly displayed in the Shimazu’s memorial Hall. Particularly, it focuses on the works of initial period. By looking at these exhibits, we can address the significant traits of R&D initiatives in the medical equipment technology performed by Shimazu.
<Exhibition of the initial products of Shimazu>
The first objects we might be caught eyes in the exhibition were specimens and experimental tools for the scientific education which had produced in the period of the Genzo Shimazu’s initiatives. There found various products such as ‘Stroboscope’, ‘3-D entity mirror’, ‘Sphere collision testing machine’, ‘Magdeburgh hemisphere’, etc. which are showing their structure and function. These are all the experimental goods that the founder Genzo had make by his own hand for the purpose of scientific education, which is based on the unique science product list “Scientific Sample Inventory” accumulated in his young age.
In addition, there were even old “Wooden lathe machines” in 19c that the Genzo had been presented from Dr. Wagner of the “Seimitsu –sha” institute as a unique collection.
<Exhibits of Battery and X-Ray equipment in the growing Shimazu>
Shimadzu Co., as mentioned earlier, began engaging the further sophisticated machinery areas when it came to the Genzo Jr.’s period. This situation is visualized by the products and works in the exhibition.
For example, “Wimseast sensitive electro motors”, educational X-ray wire generating devices, initial GS storage batteries, various performance inspection devices, and medical X-ray devices and others. Incidentally, it’s included the X-ray device “Diana”, which was demonstrated in the original form in the life-size simulation.
<Pictures and documents tracing Shimazu development>
At the museum we could also found a lot of photos, pictorial drawings, documents, models. There, in addition to the founder’s portrait, a picture of the producing site in the initial period, “a balloon launching map”, an X-ray photograph and the like were able to be observed. These definitely make us recall their endeavors and development traits of the company.
The exhibits describe how the science company Shimazu has advanced and shaped its business style in the yearly chronicle pictures provided too. These figures are really significant and it seems indicating how the Japanese technology advancement was performed by the technology companies from primary period to now as an exemplified figure, particularly in the medical equipment field.
The museum building itself of the memorial hall was also memorable one. It was built in the early Meiji period and still kept original appearance at the born of company, This valuable building was designated as a national treasure in its historic value.
♣ After the visit
It was a short visit, but it really enlightened me. Particularly I was impressed the strong initiatives of the founder Genzo’s sincere style pursuing the new scientific knowledge and curiosity to the nature shown in the infant period of industrializing Meiji, and the Genzo Jr.’s admirable figure is also impressive which held strong techno- entrepreneurship and kept proactive attitude to appreciate the social consciousness based on the scientific development.
I felt there that the strong pride and spirit of business pioneers the rising period of Japan. And I felt that he founder’s profound spirit and philosophy were actually handed down to the company engineers beyond generation, like Tanaka, who won the Nobel Prize in the advanced medical technology.
I believe this is one of the great corporate technology museum worth to visit for everyone who interested in business and technology.