Aikitsu Tanakadate Japan

Biography of Aikitsu Tanakadate

Tanakadate's matriculation 1889-90
Tanakadate's matriculation 1889-90

Aikitsu Tanakadate attended the University for two years in 1888 to work with William Thomson (Lord Kelvin). He became one of Japan’s most renowned geophysicists and seismologists.

Tanakadate was born in Ninohe City, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. He had originally intended to study and train for the traditional samurai duties of governing the country, however, he entered the University of Tokyo in 1879 where he majored in Physics. Graduating in 1882, Tankadate was appointed to a lectureship, and collaborated with Cargill Gilston Knott on a magnetic survey of Japan before going to work with Kelvin on electricity and magnetism in Glasgow in 1888.

During his time in Glasgow, Tankadate developed what would become a life-long friendship with Kelvin through their shared research interests. Before his return to Japan, Kelvin gave Tanakadate a collection of his personal cards to use as introductions to other scientists in Europe, and Tanakadate transferred to Berlin University for one year before returning to Japan in 1891. Tanakadate became Professor of Physics at the Imperial University of Tokyo and Director of the Physical Institute, and his affinity with Kelvin was manifest in the nickname ‘Lord Kelvin’ given to him by his own students.

Tanakadate continued journeying to Europe throughout his life (over twenty times), and was involved in numerous pioneering scientific advancements. His research on earthquakes led to the founding the Institute of Seismology at Tokyo University. He was instrumental in the establishment of what is now the Mizusawa Astro-Geodynamics Observatory. Tanakadate's collaboration on behalf of Asian countries in the 1906 Paris Conference on the organisation of the metric system of weights and measures eventually led to the bill establishing the metrics system in Japan. He contributed to the development of aviation in Japan from his own study of aeromechanics and in 1918 he founded the department of aviation at Tokyo University, for which he was recognised as the father of aviation in Japan and was awarded the Legion of Honour from the French government.

Tanakadate's contributions to science and technology, teaching and cultural understanding were also recognised with the Bunka Kunsho, the Order of Cultural Merit, from the Japanese government in 1944.


Other Online Resources

Printed Materials

  • "Dr AikitsuTanakadate," Satio Tanno President, Aikitu Tanakadate Society August 31, 1995


Aikitsu Tanakadate
Born 18 September 1856.
Died 21 May 1952.
GU Degree: Science and Engineering, 1888-90;
University Link: Student
Occupation categories: physicists; seismologists
English snippet: World-renowned geophysicist and seismologist
Record last updated: 23rd Jul 2018

Country Associations

Japan Japan, Iwate, Ninohe
Place of Birth

Japan Japan, Tokyo
Place of Death

University Connections

University Roles

  • Student