History of UT Women

Hideru Suzuki

Last updated: 19 March 2022

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Hideru Suzuki was born in Aichi in 1888. Her father devoted himself to his eight children’s education, and all of them including Hideru graduated from university. After attending a local highschool for girls, Suzuki completed the preparatory course of the Japan Women’s College (JWC, now University), in Tokyo, and then majored in physics, chemistry and mathematics. Upon graduation in 1910, she remained at JWC as an assistant to Nagai Nagayoshi, a professor of chemistry and the first Japanese male doctor of pharmacy, and passed the highschool chemistry teacher exam in 1912. Alongside her day job, she took steps to develop her research skills on her own, studying German and pharmacognosy at night, and successfully passed the pharmacist exam.

 

Suzuki’s efforts were rewarded when she was offered the chance to conduct research under Nagai’s former student, Prof. Heizaburo Kondo, at Tokyo Imperial University (now UTokyo), in the Dpt. of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine. In 1932 she received a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to support her work. After 5 years of painstaking experiments, aged 49 she became the first Japanese woman doctor of pharmacy in 1937, for her research on Perillen, an organic oil she discovered in Perilla citriodora Nakai, a plant endemic to Asia.

 

However, the Second World War broke out shortly afterwards, preventing her from continuing her work. She created makeshift research opportunities such as by studying gas masks and growing enokitake mushrooms in air-raid shelters. Suzuki was very close to her colleague Umeko (aka Ume) Tange, the second Japanese woman doctor of agriculture after Michiyo Tsujimura. When Tange suddenly contracted pneumonia in 1944, she personally acted as her guarantor and admitted Tange to hospital. Tange quickly recovered, but a few days later, Suzuki developed a fever, took to bed, and died suddenly aged 56. Suzuki’s younger sister, Kayo, who had supported her throughout her life, said: “It was in character for my conscientious sister to have died first while worrying about Tange's condition.”

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