Kenji Ito: "The Rise of Theoretical Physics in Japan: Transmission of Scientific Cultures and Practices of Quantum Mechanics"
- Date: 27 September, 13:15–15:00
- Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
- Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
- Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
Office for History of Science
Kenji Ito, Sokendai University: "The Rise of Theoretical Physics in Japan: Transmission of Scientific Cultures and Practices of Quantum Mechanics"
Despite its late start, Japan has become one of the major players in scientific research. In particular, theoretical physics is one of the disciplines in which Japan attained prominence relatively early. How did Japan’s theoretical physics start? This is the central question of this talk. This question is of importance to global history of science because physics in Japan, along with medicine and mathematics, was one of early examples of modern scientific research practices replicated outside Europe and North America. Unless we believe in teleological nature of science and its automatic dissemination, it requires an explanation how science, created in Europe, has crossed national and cultural boundaries and become a global phenomenon.
The crucial incident for the development of Japan's theoretical physics was the introduction of quantum mechanics. With radical conceptual changes that it caused, quantum mechanics set a new starting line for theoretical physicists around the world, providing an opportunity for late-comers to catch up. Japanese physicists were successful in seizing this opportunity. The question is, therefore, two-fold. What conditions made Japanese physicists prepared for the introduction of quantum mechanics? And, what did they do in the process of adaptation to this new environment?
This talk aims to give an outline of answers to these two questions by studying scientific cultures of three generations of Japanese theoretical physicists from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, such as Aichi Keiichi (1880-1923), Nishina Yoshio (1890-1951), Tomonaga Sin-itiro (1906-1979), Yukawa Hideki (1907-1981), and Sakata Shōichi (1911-1970).