Yukawa Hideki (湯川秀樹)

Hideki YUKAWA (January 23, 1907-September 8, 1981) was a theoretical physical scientist in Japan. He was professor emeritus for both Kyoto and Osaka University. He was also an honored citizen of Kyoto City. He was conferred the Jyunii-Kun Itto (Junior Second Rank, First order of merit). Doctorate in Science. Contributed to the development of nuclear and particle physics by advocating the meson theory, he became the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize in 1949.

Personal history

He was born in 1907 to a geological scientist Takuji OGAWA and his wife Koyuki as their third son in Ichibei-cho Town, Azabu Ward, Tokyo City (present Minato Ward (Tokyo Prefecture)). Following his father Takuji's position as professor of Kyoto Imperial University (present Kyoto University), his family moved to Kyoto City in 1908. Therefore, he lived in the house at Azabu-ku Ward for only fourteen months following his birth. He lived in Kyoto Prefecture from the age of one until graduating from university, and lived in Osaka Prefecture and Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture for a short period after graduation; he spent the greater part of his life in Kyoto Prefecture. YUKAWA wrote in his autobiography, "The days after we moved to Kyoto can be recollected but those before Kyoto cannot be. Therefore, Kyoto may be called my hometown."

His grandfather Komakitsu OGAWA was originally a samurai (warrior) of the Kishu Domain with a great store of knowledge of Sinology, who studied Western studies after the Meiji period, and continued to subscribe to the London Times until his later years. As his forefathers had lived in Wakayama, he was sometimes introduced as a person who came from Wakayama Prefecture. There is a stone monument showcasing the birthplace of Konosuke MATSUSHITA, a businessman from Wakayama Prefecture, in MATSUSHITA's hometown, whose title was written by YUKAWA as a person from the same province. YUKAWA himself, however, had not lived in Wakayama Prefecture.

He read aloud the "Shisho (four major Chinese books respected in the Confucianism)" under the tutelage of his maternal grandfather Komakitsu when he was 5 or 6 years old. "I have never thought that having read those Chinese classic books in my childhood was useless. Those books provided me with lots of benefits, although I could not construe the Chinese words at first. I felt no reluctance toward characters when I became old enough to read books written for adults. I had likely gotten used to the Chinese characters. Getting used to something produces a surprising effect. Merely repeating what my grandfather said undoubtedly facilitated my reading ability by making me familiar with the Chinese characters unconsciously. " YUKAWA wrote in his autobiography.

He entered Kyoto First Junior High School (present Kyoto Prefectural Rakuhoku High School) in 1919. He attracted little attention in his junior high school days, who was called "Gonbei". There were a lot of students whose parents were scholars in the same class in Kyoto First Junior High School, therefore many students would later became scholars. Shinichiro TOMONAGA, who also won the Nobel Prize in Physics, was his senior by one year at the junior high school and a classmate in the Third High School under the old system of education (present Kyoto University, general education course) and Kyoto Imperial University.

Nobel Prize
He graduated from the Physics Department, Science Faculty of Kyoto Imperial University in 1929. He became the assistant of the laboratory of Kajuro TAMAKI in Kyoto Imperial University. He became the instructor of Kyoto Imperial University in 1932. He also held the post of instructor at Osaka Imperial University (present Osaka University) in 1933. It is said that his voice was so small that students found it difficult to understand his lectures. He was adopted by his wife's family Yukawa, whose family head was the director of Osaka Gastrointestinal Hospital at that time, while changing his family name from Ogawa to Yukawa.

He put forward the meson theory in 1934 and submitted a thesis "Interaction of the elementary particle" in 1935, predicting the existence of mesons. This research was appreciated, with the result that he was awarded the Gakushi-in Onshi-sho (the Imperial prize of the Imperial Academy (later Japan Academy)) in 1940 and the Order of Culture in 1943, while becoming the youngest winner of the Order of Culture. He also won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949. He was the first Japanese to win the Novel Prize, so his feat excited the Japanese nation which had lost its confidence through its defeat in the Second World War and subsequent occupation.

He kept advocating innovative and ambitious theories such as the quantum theory of non-local field and the theory of elementary domain, and was active at the forefront of Physics until his last days. He also actively took part in the peace movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons, being among the members including Max Born who jointly published the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

His later years
After he retired from Kyoto University in 1970, he became professor emeritus for Kyoto University. When he was asked to write something on a shikishi (a square of heavy decorated paper for writing poem, motto and others), he often wrote "知魚楽" in Chinese characters. "知魚楽" means "Sympathize with the pleasure of swimming fishes". This is the last phrase in "Quishi" (Autumn Floods), a chapter of "Zhuangzi"which is a Taoist book named after an ancient Chinese philosopher. He died at his home in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City for pneumonia and cardiac failure in 1981. He was 74 years old. His graveyard is in Chion-in Temple in Kyoto City. "Malicious god, leave and never return to our society! Our society welcomes only people praying for peace." is his tanka (thirty-one syllables' poem)-styled epitaph, which is inscribed on the pedestal of the statue of "Wakaba (young leaves)" in the Hiroshima Heiwa-koen Park.

1907

He was born as the third son to a geological scientist Takuji OGAWA and his wife Koyuki.

1908

He moved to Kyoto City with his family.

1919

He graduated from Kyogoku Jinjo Elementary School (elementary school in the old education system established by the Meiji Government).

1923

He graduated from the Kyoto First Junior High School (present Kyoto Prefectural Rakuhoku High School).

1926

He graduated from the Third High School under the old system of education.

1929

He graduated from the Physics Department, Science Faculty of Kyoto Imperial University. He became the assistant of the laboratory of Kajuro TAMAKI in Kyoto Imperial University.

1932

He was adopted by his wife's family Yukawa, with changing his family name from Ogawa to Yukawa. He became the instructor of Kyoto Imperial University.

1933

He also held the post of the instructor of Osaka Imperial University.

1934

He put forward the concept of meson theory.

1935

He submitted a thesis "Interaction of the elementary particle", predicting the existence of meson.

1936

He became the assistant professor of Science Faculty of Osaka Imperial University.

1938

He obtained a Doctorate in Science at Osaka Imperial University.

1939

He became a professor of Kyoto Imperial University.

1940

He was awarded the Gakushi-in Onshi-sho.

1942

He became the professor of Science Faculty of Tokyo Imperial University.

1943

He won the Order of Culture to be the youngest winner.

1946

He became a member of the Imperial Academy.

1948

He became the guest professor of Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton University.

1949

He became a guest professor of Columbia University in July, and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in October.

1950

He became a professor of Columbia University

1953

He became the first Director of Institute for Fundamental Physics, Kyoto University and the Kyoto committee of the International Conference of Theoretical Physics.

1955

He became a member of the committee of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of Japan and the chairperson of the Physical Society of Japan.

1958

He became a councilor of the Atomic Energy Commission.

1970

He retired from Kyoto University and became professor emeritus of Kyoto University.

1981

He died.

1940

He received the Gakushi-in Onshi-sho.

1941

He received the Noma Academic Award.

1943

He received the Order of Culture.

1949

He received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

1964

He received the Lomonosov Gold Medal.

1967

He received the Order of Pour le Merite for Science and Arts in West Germany.

He received the Order of Academy of Sciences in Vatican (the Roman Curia).

1977

He received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

Relative

His father was Takuji OGAWA (a geologist and the professor emeritus of Kyoto University).

His mother was Koyuki OGAWA (a daughter of Komakitsu OGAWA in Wakayama Prefecture).

He had two elder sisters, Kayoko and Taeko.

He had two elder brothers; Yoshiki OGAWA (a metallurgist and the professor of the University of Tokyo) and Shigeki KAIZUKA (a scholar of Oriental history, the professor emeritus of Kyoto University, and a winner of the Order of Culture).

He had three younger brothers; Tamaki OGAWA (a scholar of Chinese literature and the professor emeritus of Kyoto University) and Shigeki OGAWA.

His other younger brother Masuki OGAWA died in his infancy.

His wife was Sumi YUKAWA (the second daughter of Genyo YUKAWA, a doctor in Wakayama Prefecture).

Kunio TAKEDA (businessman) was a distant relative.

Writings

"Gendai no Taiwa (Dialogue Today) "(joint authors, Hiroshi SUEKAWA, Takeo KUWAHARA, Takeshi UMEHARA, Yukon-sha, 1966).

"Me ni Mienai Mono (Invisible Substances)" (Kodan-sha, Gakujutsu-bunko, ISBN 4061580949)

"Butsuri Kogi (Physical lecture)" (Kodan-sha company, Gakujutsu-bunko, ISBN 4061581953)

"Tabibito Aru Butsurigakusha no Kaiso (Recollection of a physicist, a traveler)" (Kadokawa Sofia Bunko, ISBN 4041238013)

"Hon no naka no Sekai (World in a book)" (Iwanami Shinsho, ISBN 4004150906)

"Butsuri no Sekai (World of Physics)" (joint authors, Eiji YAMADA, Yasuhisa KATAYAMA, Kodan-sha company, Gendaishinsho, ISBN 4061154079)

"Ningen ni totte Kagaku towa Nanika (What is the science for humans?)" (Chuko Shinsho, ISBN 412100132X)

"Butsuri no Sekai, Suri no Sekai (World of Physics, World of Mathematical Principle of physics)" (joint authors, Toshio KITAGAWA, Chuko Shinsho, ISBN 4121002504)