Chemical Heritage Foundation and Pittcon Will Honor Two Pioneers of the Japanese Scientific Instrument Industry

February 16, 2012 - Philadelphia

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) will present the 2012 Pittcon Heritage Award to honor Genzo Shimadzu, Sr. (1839−1894), and Genzo Shimadzu, Jr. (1868−1951). Jointly sponsored by the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) and CHF, this award recognizes outstanding individuals whose entrepreneurial careers have shaped the instrumentation community, inspired achievement, promoted public understanding of the modern instrumentation sciences, and highlighted the role of analytical chemistry in world economies. This 11th annual award will be presented at Pittcon 2012 in Orlando, Florida, which begins March 11.

“Genzo Shimadzu, Sr. and Jr., can truly be called pioneers in bringing Western technology to Japan,” said Thomas R. Tritton, president and CEO of CHF. “Their two generations of leadership created the scientific instrumentation industry and paved the way for Japan to become an industrial powerhouse in the second half of the 20th century.”

Representatives of Shimadzu Corporation will receive the Pittcon Heritage Award in their founders’ honor at the 63rd annual Pittcon, the world’s annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science. It is organized by The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit educational corporation that comprises the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP) and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP).

Pittcon attracts nearly 20,000 attendees from industry, academia, and government from 90 countries worldwide and is managed by a committee of volunteers and an 11-person staff. Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult.

The Pittsburgh Conference donates nearly a million dollars each year in the form of science-equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public-science centers, libraries, and museums.

More information is available at

About the Awardees

Genzo Shimadzu, Sr., and Genzo Shimadzu, Jr., through their vision and innovative spirit stand tall among those who were responsible for Japan’s rapid modernization in the second half of the 19th century. 

Genzo Shimadzu, Sr., began his career as a maker of Buddhist altars, but Japan’s growing interest in Western technology after 1868 opened his eyes to new opportunities. Through the Physics and Chemistry Research Institute in Kyoto, Shimadzu eagerly and quickly absorbed knowledge about new technologies. Soon he was using his mechanical abilities to repair and maintain foreign equipment, while learning everything he could about the devices he worked on. Next he began to manufacture such equipment—distillation devices, evacuation apparatus, Atwood’s machines, and even medical equipment—supplying it to Japanese schools. As his business grew, so did his reputation. In time he was invited to teach in the metal-working department of the Kyoto Prefecture Normal School.

His untimely death in 1894 at the age of 55 transferred ownership of his business to his oldest son, Umejiro, who changed his name to Genzo, determined to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Genzo Shimadzu, Jr., had grown up in the business his father created. In this environment he acquired technical and inventive skills that outstripped his father’s. With his younger brothers, Genkichi and Tsunesaburo, he took the Shimadzu business into new areas. In 1895 he created a department for science specimens. In 1897 the company launched the manufacture of storage batteries, a technology of particular importance for Japan. Shimadzu made a number of contributions in this area; most notably, he developed a revolutionary method for manufacturing high-quality reactive lead powder, an essential ingredient for storage batteries. 

Starting in 1897 Shimadzu also devoted a considerable amount of his research efforts to developing X-ray equipment, making his company a pioneer in this technology. In 1909 Shimadzu Corporation built its first medical X-ray machine, which was also the first produced in Japan. The power source was a Shimadzu storage battery.
Genzo Shimadzu Jr.’s efforts to create new technologies were recognized in 1930 at a dinner given by the emperor of Japan, where Shimadzu was designated one of the top 10 inventors in his country. He continued to develop new devices throughout his life. By his death in 1951 he had registered 178 inventions in 12 countries. During his lifetime Shimadzu Corporation became an innovative force, providing researchers with many tools for discovery, ranging from balances to spectrographs to industrial X-ray equipment.

About the Pittcon Heritage Award

The Pittcon Heritage Award is jointly sponsored by the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. This award recognizes outstanding individuals whose entrepreneurial careers shaped the instrumentation and laboratory supplies community, inspired achievement, promoted public understanding of the modern instrumentation sciences, and highlighted the role of analytical chemistry in world economies.

The award is presented annually at a special ceremony during Pittcon. The recipient’s name and achievements are added to a roster of Pittcon Hall of Fame members that includes such industry pioneers as Arnold Beckman, Robert Finnigan, Chester Fisher, Aaron Martin, James Waters, and others.

About the Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Foundation fosters an understanding of chemistry’s impact on society. An independent nonprofit organization, CHF strives to:

• Inspire a passion for chemistry;
• Highlight chemistry’s role in meeting current social challenges; and
• Preserve the story of chemistry and its technologies and industries across centuries.

CHF maintains major collections of instruments, fine art, photographs, papers, and books. We host conferences and lectures, support research, offer fellowships, and produce educational materials. Our museum and public programs explore subjects ranging from alchemy to nanotechnology.

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