Victoria Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Princeton University. Her dissertation entitled “The Arts of the Microbial World: Biosynthetic Technologies in Twentieth-Century Japan” examines how fermentation methods from such traditional industries as sake and soy-sauce production came to take special prominence in the modern fine chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries. It explores how scientists in agricultural chemistry (the largest discipline in the Japanese life sciences) contributed to upgrading the traditional sector during the country’s industrialization and traces how the growing understanding of microbes as tools affected the formation of Japan’s globally leading areas in vitamins, alcohols, antibiotics, and amino-acids innovation. It uses understanding of microbes as a prism to explore Japanese views on nutrition, natural resources, and the environment more generally, in addition to the relations of Japanese science with the state and with the country’s shared technological heritage with China and Southeast Asia.
Lee received a B.A. Hons./M.A. in physics from Cambridge University and retrained as a historian of science with an M.Sc. from Imperial College London. She also studied at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies between 2009 and 2010.