100th Anniversary: Death of Mitsuru Kuhara

100th Anniversary: Death of Mitsuru Kuhara

Author: ChemViews Magazine

Mitsuru Kuhara (久原躬弦) was born on January 5, 1856, in Tsuyama, Japan [1]. He studied chemistry at Tokyo University, Japan, and was one of the first graduates of the department of chemistry. He was appointed Assistant Professor at Tokyo University in 1878 at only 22 years of age.

Kuhara was the first President of the Tokyo Chemical Society (initially named the Chemical Society), a predecessor of the Chemical Society of Japan (CSJ). The Tokyo Chemical Society was founded in 1878 by approximately twenty scholars and was one of the earliest chemical societies, following countries such as the United Kingdom (1841), Germany (1867), and the United States (1876).

Kuhara’s research mostly concerned organic chemistry, with a particular focus on dyes and organic nitrogen compounds. He worked, for example, on the synthesis of phthalimide, on the structure of phthalyl chloride, and on the properties of camphor. Later, he investigated the synthesis of indigo, the Beckmann rearrangement (a reaction that transforms oxime groups to amides), and new phthalimide derivatives.

From 1879 to 1881, Kuhara worked at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, with Ira Remsen, who co-discovered the artificial sweetener saccharin. In 1881, he spent some time studying mineralogy at Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, and later the same year, he submitted his thesis to Johns Hopkins University and received a Ph.D. After returning to Japan, he became Professor at the University of Tokyo in 1884. Kuhara moved to Kyoto University as Professor in 1898. He was a Member of the Imperial Academy (today’s Japan Academy) and received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese Emperor. Mitsuru Kuhara died on November 21, 1919.

Mitsuru Kuhara is the answer to Guess the Chemist (95).


  • [1] Some sources give Kuhara’s year of birth as 1855 due a discrepancy between the Japnese lunar calendar and the western calendar at the time.


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