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Transfer of Scientific Instrument Making Technology from Europe to Japan in Meiji Era


Kyoto University Museum possesses many physical apparatus collected at the College of Kyoto between 1868 and 1945. From these apparatus and many archives of Kyoto University Library, the technology transfer in the field of scientific instrument making from Europe to Japan can be traced. The way of transfer was the employment of foreign teachers, the education of Japanese students in European countries, the settlement of school for the education of engineer. Japanese scientific instrument manufacturers appeared in the late 19th century.

Key Words: History of Science, Scientific Instrument

After 1867, Japan have been exerted an effort to absorb a European modern technology positively, with a slogan of the enrichment and the strengthening of nation, and promote the social modernization. Many schools have been settled and an educational system has been developed. Many experimental apparatus for education of physics and chemistry became necessary. The supply of the apparatus depended on the import from European scientific instrument makers at first. European scientific instrument production technology has been studied before long, and the educational apparatus have been produced in Japan.
In order to absorb European production technology, three way were taken as below.

  1. Production technology was studied from foreigner engineers.
  2. Many students were dispatched to Europe and America, and the production technology was studied.
  3. A school for studying the production technology was settled, and engineers were trained.
I report a surveying apparatus manufacturer, Tsuneoki Fujishima as case study of 2. A school for teaching the scientific instrument production technology was not settled. A general engineer training school of the lower level was installed and the scientific instrument was produced in a work of school and the production technology has grown up. Seisakugaku Kyozho was established in Tokyo Kaiseigakko.

Table 1 chronological table of scientific instrument making in Japan
1869:K.W.Gratama brought the physical apparatus to Seimikyoku
1871-73:Iwakura Mission to Europe
1874-77:Seisakugaku Kyozho
1875:Genzo Shimadzu began to work
1877:The 1st inland industrial Exposition
1881:Mechanic Institute of Tokyo

Tsuneoki Fujishima (1829-89) was born in a family in business as a maker of a sword and a metal decoration in Chofu, Yamaguchi. He was ordered a surveying of Toyoura prefecture in Yamaguchi from Japanese government for 1868-1870 years. Fujishima recognized the importance of a surveying instrument at the time, and began to devote his effort to the production. He participated in the Vienna international exposition of 1873 as a student, and after the end of the exhibition, he studied under a Vienna surveying instrument manufacturer about for half a year. After return home, he worked at the building and repairing division of the ministry of technology, and was devoted to the surveying instrument production. As the division was abolished in 1877, he opened a surveying and scientific instrument factory in 1878. He exhibited a sextant and a theodolite at the 2nd inland industrial exhibition of 1881 and awarded two prize medals. It showed the high production ability of Fujishima. On the occasion of the death of his eldest son in 1883, the factory was abolished and Fujishima settled a school for the instrument production. The Fujishima's factory showed the high technical performance in instrument production in Japan of those days. However, there was a large disparity in technology when comparing it with the product of European countries. He was not able to realize his dream of domestic production of the surveying instrument. Actually, the navy which needed a surveying instrument of high performance abundantly depended on the import from Europe.
There is a dip needle in physical apparatus collection preserved at Kyoto University. The dip needle includes a signature of "manufactured by Fujishima". This is the instrument with the highest production technology in Japan of those days.

Fig. 1 Dip Needle manufactured by Fujishima, pucchase year 1883, Kyoto University Collection

The Seisakugaku Kyozho was established in Kaiseigakko in 1874. According to Seiichi Teshima who made his efforts for industrial education in Meiji era, it was established by a proposal of German teacher Gottfried Wagener (1831-92). Teshima describes in recollection of industry education that Wagener adviced that the engineer of the lower degree was necessary. In a work of Seisakugaku Kyozho, physical apparatus, chemical apparatus, and chemicals were produced, and they were supplied to many schools all over the country. Scientific instrument manufacturers have been grown up.
In physical apparatus collection of Kyoto University, there is Norrenberg Polariscope produced in the work.