Role of Science and Technology in Social Education
- Example in Public Transportation -
The present modern Japanese society is supported by its high level of science and technology. However, the scientists and engineers are not so highly evaluated in the society. On the other hand, heritages of technology are well known to people in Europe and U.S.A. One of the examples is that the nicknames of trains in European countries are often taken from famous engineers like "Nobel", "Eiffel" etc. This simply implies how these engineers works are highly evaluated in the society.
Key Words: Heritage, Science and Technology, Railway, Aircraft
The 20th century was referred to as the "Century of Science and Technology". The present human society much depends on unprecedented development of science and technology in Japan and other developed countries. Though we have entered the 21st century, we are obligated to teach the great achievements of pioneering scientists and engineers to the next generations. However, historical education in Japan is rather shifted to the field of humanities and social science, and the contribution of science and technology is not properly treated. Moreover, the students prefer liberal arts to science, and this trend gives alarm to the future Japanese society because this country is based on importing natural resources and exporting products.
In the present research, I would like to review the situation of science and technology heritage in Japan and the Western countries by comparing several examples.
2. Yukawa and Newton, Shima and Trevithick
Kyoto University is proud of its five of seven Japanese Nobel Prize Winners in natural science. However, we have only one statue of Hideki Yukawa to commemorate his Nobel Prize for physics in 1949 in front of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in our campus. The only remainder is the memorial nameplate of Prof. Kenichi Fukui.
On the other hand, memories of famous scientists are often found in many places in the West. The birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton (Woolsthorpe Manor)(1) is well maintained with a descendant of the famous apple tree by the National Trust near Grantham, 160 km north of London (Fig. 1). His grave with his monument is located in the Westminster Abbey in the heart of London. It is interesting to note the monument of Richard Trevithick, the inventor of steam locomotives, is also located near Issac Newton's grave(2). The grave of famous Stephenson is placed at St. Paul's Cathedral(3).
There is no doubt that Shinkansen gave the most important influence on the railway technology originated from Japan. Hideo Shima and supporting engineers can have the same honorable position as Stephenson. However, there is no individual monument to commemorate them. Surprising evidence is that the first generation Shinkansen has already been stored in the National Railway Museum in York, U.K. This is the part of the National Museum of Science and Technology. These difference in Japan and the West indicates the different position of scientists and engineers in their society.
Fig. 1 Woolsthorpe Manor
3. Wright Brothers National Memorial
US will celebrate centennial of flight in next year, 2003. Wright Brothers National Memorial is located in Kill Devil Hills, NC, and managed by National Park Service. The exact locations of taking off and landing points on Dec. 17, 1903 are indicated by memorial stones, and a replica of the original Wright Flyer as well as other memorial of the first flight is exhibited in the museum(Fig. 2). Important point is that these memorial and museum are maintained by the US government.
Fig. 2 Wright Brothers National Memorial
On the other hand, the support of the government is rather poor in Japan. We have no national museums on railways and aircraft. We have the National Science Museum in Tokyo. However, science and engineering exhibition is quite poor, and only one steam locomotive (D51) and the Lamda rocket launcher used for the first Japanese satellite are stored outside of the building in the rain. The first generation Shinkansen coaches are only kept in the Modern Transport Museum operated by West Japan Railway Company in Osaka.
I also want to note one important milestone in the field of aviation which originated from Japan. Composite material is one of the most advanced structural materials for aircraft. Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) have been used as primary structural materials for stabilizer since 1985, and this material contributed to reduce the structural weight and increase the performance of aircraft. Moreover, this material is applied to main wing structure in the military applications. The inventor of carbon fiber is Dr. A. Shindo of Government Industrial Research Institute, Osaka, Japan. The market of carbon fiber is fully controlled by three major Japanese manufacturers. However, it is a pity that nothing to commemorate Dr. Shindo is left there.
4. Train names in Germany
Express trains are often given nickname in addition to the train numbers. This also give the idea of cultural bases of each country. In Japan, the nicknames are often taken from traditional Japanese favorites like "Fuji (Mt. Fuji", "Sakura (Cherry)", birds like "Tsubame (Swallow)" which can fly fast, geographical names like "Asama" and abstract words like "Nozomi (Hope)". On the other hand, trains often have names of historical persons up to the modern period in European countries. In Germany, all of ICE, EC and IC trains have names from wide areas. Here, scientists and engineers are also popular in addition to novelists and artists. Examples are Nobel: Hamburg-Stockholm, Eiffel: Paris-Frankfurt, Da Vinci: Munchen-Milano, Gutenberg: Berlin-Nurnberg, Einstein: Interlaken-Praha, Humboldt: Brussels-Berlin, Daimler: Stuttgart-Hamburg. Here, small timetables of each train are distributed to all passengers with brief explanations of the train names (Fig. 3). It is quite interesting to note that "Daimler" who is an opponent of railway traffic is nominated as the name of an ICE train. In Germany, Gauss was printed in 10 DM bill with a graph of normal distribution. These simply implies that scientists and engineers are highly evaluated in the Western countries.
Fig. 3 Small timetable for German ICE train
5. Concluding remarks
Motivation of study is much related to education in the early stages. Japanese scientists and engineer have contributed development of advanced technologies in may areas. However, only a few traces have been stored as heritages. The social education and transfer of engineers spirit to younger generation are strongly required for the further advances of the Japanese industrial society.
(1) Takano, Y., Trip on science history in Europe, NHK books, C36 (1988).
(2) Web site of Westminster Abbey: www.westminster-abbey.org (2002).
(3) Shindo, A., Rep. Govn. Ind. Res. Inst. Osaka, 317 (1961).