Kaichi Watanabe Japan

Biography of Kaichi Watanabe

Kaichi Watanabe, Matriculation 1885-86
Kaichi Watanabe, Matriculation 1885-86

Kaichi Watanabe graduated from the University BSc in Civil Engineering in 1886. Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1858, Watanabe was among the earliest Japanese engineers to study and work in the UK. He is best known for his work with Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker in cantilever bridge construction, notably on the Forth Rail Bridge.

In 1877, Watanabe entered the Kobu Daigakk┼Ź (The Imperial College of Engineering), the predecessor of the Faculty of Technology in the University of Tokyo, from which he graduated in 1884 with honours. Watanabe then came to the University of Glasgow in 1884 to study Engineering Sciences, graduating BSc in 1886.

During his studies at Glasgow Watanabe won a number of class prizes including, in 1884, 1st place in Junior Class Civil Engineering and Mechanics and 1st equal place in Senior Class Office & Field Work Engineering.

Following his graduation, he was employed as a construction foreman during the building of the Forth Bridge, designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker and built between 1883 and 1890 to carry the North British Railway line 2.5 kilometres across the Firth of Forth, from South to North Queensferry. Still considered a marvel of engineering, Watanabe demonstrated the cantilever design of the bridge in 1887, an event that was captured in a famous photograph where he perches between Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, providing a human cantilever model. In 2007, this photograph was incorporated into the design of the œ 20 banknotes issued by Bank of Scotland to commemorate Watanabe, Fowler and Baker's contributions to Scottish bridge engineering and their work on the Forth Rail Bridge.

On his return to Japan in 1888, Watanabe worked as chief engineer for the Nippon Doboku Company and then worked for several other companies. In 1899 he was granted a Doctorate in Engineering from the Imperial College of Engineering. Later in his life he worked as president of many companies including Sangu Railway Company, Kansai Gas Company, Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipyard, and Keio Electric Railway Company.


Archival Materials

  • R3/1/1 (vol 1) 1881-1915 Register of dates of birth of graduates


Kaichi Watanabe
Born 8 February 1858.
Died 4 December 1932.
GU Degree: BSc, 1886;
University Link: Alumnus, Graduate
Occupation categories: engineers, civil
Additional Information: R3/1/1 (vol 1)
English snippet: One of the first Japanese engineers to study in the UK
Record last updated: 23rd Jul 2018

Country Associations

Japan Japan, Tokyo
Place of Birth

University Connections

University Roles