Katsuko Saruhashi is the subject of a Google Doodle tribute on what would have been her 98th birthday for “her incredible contributions to science, and for inspiring young scientists everywhere to succeed.”
“There are many women who have the ability to become great scientists. I would like to see the day when women can contribute to science & technology on an equal footing with men,” Saruhashi once said. She believed “it was her mission to make the field she worked in more equal,” and she was highly regarded as a pioneer geochemist of her own.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Saruhashi Was Fascinated by the Rain as a Child & That Inspired Her to Study Chemistry
Saruhashi was a Japanese geologist and chemist who was born on March 22, 1920, in Tokyo, Japan. She was a graduate of Toho University, 1943 and the University of Tokyo, ScD, 1957, according to Encyclopedia.com.
According to Google, “A young Katsuko Saruhashi sat in primary school watching raindrops slide down a window and wondered what made it rain. Her journey for answers led her to become the first woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1957.” Fascinated by the rain, she would go on to study it: Acid rain, in particular.
2. She Developed a Technique to Track Radioactive Fallout Across Oceans, Hich LEd to Restrictions on Nuclear Testing
In honoring Saruhashi, Google noted, “Saruhashi is renowned for her groundbreaking research as a geochemist. She was the first to accurately measure the concentration of carbonic acid in water based on temperature, pH Level, and chlorinity.”
“Saruhashi’s Table,” which was named after her, was a methodology that is utilized by oceanographers today. In another one of her key accomplishments, she “also developed a technique to trace the travel of radioactive fallout across the oceans that led to restricting oceanic nuclear experimentation in 1963,” reported Google.
Her death came in 2007 from pneumonia. She was 87-years-old at the time of her death.
3. Saruhashi, Whose Career Encompassed More Than Three Decades, Was a Pioneering Scientist in Japan, Becoming the First Woman to Hold Top Positions & Win Major Awards
According to Google, “During a career spanning 35 years, Saruhashi became the first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan in 1980, and the first woman honored with the Miyake Prize for geochemistry in 1985 – among many other awards.”
She cared about achieving a more peaceful world. “Saruhashi also started the Society of Japanese Women Scientists in 1958 with a mission to have more women contributing to sciences and world peace,” Time Magazine reported.
4. She Cared Deeply About Advancing the Careers of Female Scientists & an Annual Award for Woman Scientists Is Named for Her
Saruhashi cared deeply about championing other female scientists. This was one of the hallmarks of her life’s work; she reached back to try to assist the advancement of other women, especially Japanese women, in the sciences. “She was deeply committed to inspiring young women to study science, and established the Saruhashi Prize in 1981, recognizing female scientists for distinguished research in natural sciences,” Google reported.
Female scientists are honored each year with the “Saruhashi Prize.” According to Washington.edu, “The prize was established in 1981 by Katsuko Saruhashi (1920-2007).”
According to ITBM, “The Saruhashi Award has been set up in 1980 by ‘The Association for the Bright Future of Women Scientists,’ which was established by the geochemist, Dr. Katsuko Saruhashi. This award is granted each year to female scientists under 50 years old in recognition for their distinguished research in natural sciences.”
She said of the Saruhashi Prize that it “highlights the capabilities of women scientists. Each winner has not only been a successful researcher, but a wonderful human being as well.”
5. Saruhashi Was Able to Convince the U.S. & the Soviet Union to Restrict Nuclear Testing in the Pacific Ocean
Saruhashi’s scientific inquiry helped inform the nuclear arms race. “Upon request of Japanese government, directed research of widespread affects of nuclear bomb testing (1954), discovering that fallout from US bomb test site, Bikini Island, had spread to Japan’s seawater 18 months after test,” Encyclopedia.com reported.
“Her research helped persuade US and Soviet Union to stop above-ground nuclear testing (1963).” According to Washington.edu, Saruhashi was a “Japanese geochemist who made the first precise measurements of carbon dioxide and radioactive materials in ocean water, which was one of the scientific reasons for restricting nuclear bomb experiments in the Pacific Ocean.”