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Jokichi Takamine

Born 1853-11.03
Died 1922-07.22

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Japanese-American biochemist and industrialist, born November 3, 1854, Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, Japan, Died July 22, 1922, New York.

Biography of Jokichi Takamine

Jokichi Takamine’s most important achievement was the isolation of the chemical adrenalin (now called epinephrine) from the suprarenal gland (1901). This was the first pure hormone to be isolated from natural sources.

Takamine’s father was a doctor, his mother a member of a family of sake brewers. He spent his childhood in Kanazawa, capital of present-day Ishikawa Prefecture in central Honshū, and was educated in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. He graduated in 1879 as a chemical engineer from the College of Science and Engineering of the Imperial University of Tokyo.

The Japanese government sent him to Glasgow for postgraduate study at the University of Glasgow and Anderson College in Scotland. During vacations he visited induatrial plants, observing the manufacture of soda and fertilizers. He returned to Japan in 1883 and joined the division of chemistry at the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. He learned English as a child from a Dutch family in Nagasaki and so always spoke English with a Dutch accent.

He rose rapidly, becoming head of the department’s chemistry division. His first visit to the U.S. was in 1884 as a commissioner to the Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans.  In 1887 he left government  service to establish his own factory, the Tokyo Artificial fertilizer Company, which manufactured superphosphate fertilizers. 
In his private laboratory, Takamine developed his diastase from koji, a fungus used in the manufacture of soy sauce and miso. Its Latin name is Aspergillus oryzae, and it is a "designated national fungus" (kokkin) in Japan from a fungus grown on rice, a starch-digesting enzyme similar to distase; he named it Takadiastase. It catalyzes the breakdown of starch. 
In 1899, Takamine was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Engineering by what is now the University of Tokyo.
 
In 1884 Takamine went as co-commissioner of the Cotton Exposition to New Orleans, where he met Lafcadio Hearn and Caroline Hitch, his future wife. 

In 1890 he was called to the U.S. to devise a practical application of the enzyme for the distilling industry. At this time he took up permanent residence in the U.S., establishing the laboratory at Clifton, New Jersey, where his pioneering research in the isolation of adrenalin was carried out. He licensed the exclusive production rights for Takadiastase to one of the largest US pharmaceutical companies, Parke Davis. This turned out to be a shrewd move – he became a millionaire in a relatively short time and by the early 20th century was estimated to be worth $30 million.

In 1900 Dr. Takamine succeeded in crystallizing and isolating adrenaline, the hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Adrenaline is widely used in all medical fields as a hemostatic and cardiotonic agent.
In 1901 he isolated and purified the hormone adrenaline (the first effective bronchodilator for asthma) from animal glands, becoming the first to accomplish this for a glandular hormone. 

In 1905 he founded the Nippon Club, which was for many years located at 161 West 93rd Street in Manhattan.

Takamine maintained close ties with Japan, aiding the countries development of industrial dyes, aluminum fabrication, nitrogen fixation, the electric furnace, and the manufacture of Bakelite.  
In 1904, the Emperor Meiji of Japan honored Takamine with an unusual gift. In the context of the St. Louis World Fair (Louisiana Purchase Exposition), the Japanese government had replicated a historical Japanese structure, the "Pine and Maple Palace" (Shofu-den), modelled after the Kyoto Imperial Coronation Palace of 1,300 years ago. This structure was given to Dr. Takamine in grateful recognition of his efforts to further friendly relations between Japan and the United States. He had the structure transported in sections from Missouri to his summer home in upstate New York, seventy-five miles north of New York City. In 1909, the structure served as a guest house for Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi and Princess Kuni of Japan, who were visiting the area. 

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