The Evolving Identity of the Scientist in Japan

Panel to be held at the Joint East Asian Studies Conference, Edinburgh, 2019.

Like its English counterpart ‘scientist’, the term kagakusha was for much of its early existence a matter of debate, particularly in Japan where science initially suffered from a reputation as a vocation for “second rate people”.  During the twentieth century, however, scientists in Japan increasingly came to have an established professional identity and a clearly defined position in the public sphere.

The three papers in this panel provide a chronological exploration the evolving profile of the scientist in nineteenth and twentieth century Japan, asking how the identity of the kagakusha developed, and examining how Japanese scientists established a position for themselves in society and in the public sphere. Together they historicize the notion of the scientist in Japan in an attempt to de-centre our understanding of the history of modern science. It is hoped that such an approach can reveal some of the implicit assumptions underlying mainstream scholarship and contribute to a more thoroughly global history of modern science.

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