Dr. Jokichi Takamine
Jokichi Takamine…Born on November 3, 1854 in Onmadashi-machi, Jokichi Takamine spent most of his childhood in Takaoka City. His mother’s family owned a sake factory and his father was a physician. Showing an aptitude for languages and science at an early age, he was encouraged by his father to pursue western scientific interests. When Jokichi was 12 years of age he began his study of so called foreign science in Nagasaki. It is interesting to note that he had learned to speak English as a child from a Dutch family living in Nagasaki, and he always spoke English with a Dutch accent. At the age of 16 he was admitted to medical school in Osaka and then transferred to a chemistry program at the College of Science and Engineering in Tokyo when he was 18.
Takamine was selected by the government to study technology at the University of Glasgow when he was 24. While in Scotland he worked on his English skills, studied the industrial revolution and specialized in the practice of fertilizer manufacturing. Upon returning to Japan he took a job with the Japanese Department of Agriculture and Commerce. His goal was to apply western technology to Japanese products, but he was only in Japan a short time before he was sent in 1884 to the United States to be a co-commissioner of the Cotton Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jokichi rented an apartment in the French Quarter from a retired Union officer, Colonel Ebenezer Hitch. He fell in love with his landlord’s daughter Caroline Field Hitch. He asked her to marry him before he returned to Japan at the end of the Cotton Exposition and promised to return as soon as he had set himself up financially.
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Within 2 years, he was appointed Acting Chief of the newly organized Japanese Bureau of Patents and Trade Marks and he came back to the U.S. They were married on August 10, 1887. It was an unusual union for those times and was what bound Takamine’s connection to the US. The couple honeymooned in South Carolina and visited fertilizer-manufacturing plants and then went to Washington D.C. where Jokichi studied U.S. patent law. After that they went to California and sailed to Japan. Once in Japan he established the first Japanese super-phosphate plant to supply fertilizer to rice farmers, which he named the Tokyo Artificial Fertilizer Company.
The couple lived near the factory. Two sons were born in 1888 and 1890, Jokichi Jr. and Eben. But Caroline was unhappy living in Japan. She stuck out like a sore thumb with her blonde hair and blue eyes and her mother-in-law made it clear she didn’t like her foreign daughter-in-law. Neither was the neighborhood where they lived a comfortable place. Therefore, Jokichi sought out a new business venture in the United States. Since he couldn’t compete in the established fertilizer business there, he decided to reverse the idea of adopting western technology to Japanese industry and he adapted Japanese technology to western industry.
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The brewers of both the eastern and western cultures have learned by trial and error how to use yeast to make alcohol. Alcoholic fermentation starts with sugar. Because yeast doesn’t possess starch degrading enzymes, the starchy grains -corn, rice, wheat - must first be saccharified before they are fermented. The starch degrading enzymes are called amylases or in older literature, diastases. In western brewing the diastases are derived from malt, which is made from germinating barley. In Japan, diastases, called kojis, are obtained from mold cultures grown on rice. They are comparable to malt, but more enzymatically active.
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Takamine believed that a diastatic enzyme derived from Aspergillus oryzae could revolutionize the American distillery industry so he returned to the U.S. in 1890 with his family in tow. He first worked in Chicago then Peoria, Illinois, where he adapted the koji process for the beer and whiskey industry. The Peoria distillery where he worked was successful because the fungal diastase was faster at saccharification and cheaper to produce than the diastase from malt. Being racist the malt manufacturers didn’t welcome Jokichi’s new innovation. Although historical records are sketchy, there is evidence of this, indicating labor agitation and perhaps even arson. The distillery where Takamine worked was burned to ground, financially ruining him. If this wasn’t bad enough, he was struck down by liver disease and had to have emergency surgery in Chicago. Caroline sold arts and crafts to support their family
Chicago World's Fair, 1933
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Takamine eventually regained his health and in 1894 he extracted a powerful digestive enzyme and named it Takadiastase. He applied for a patent and was granted one, U.S. Patent No. 525, 823 entitled Process of making diastatic enzyme. It was his method of growing mold on bran and using aqueous alcohol to extract amylase. It was the first patent in the United States on a microbial enzyme. Takamine realized that the diastatic properties of the enzyme had medical applications and licensed it with Parke-Davis of Detroit, Michigan under its name of Taka-diastase. Parke-Davis marketed it as a digestive aid for the treatment of dyspepsia, which was said to be due to incomplete digestion of starch. It was extremely successful and Parke-Davis made him a consultant to the company. Takamine and his family then moved to Manhattan where he established an independent laboratory on East 103rd Street.
In 1900 he was the first in the world to isolate the hormone adrenaline, an effective hemostatic agent of immense use in surgery. This discovery, which vastly improved patients' survival rates, earned him worldwide fame. Jokichi’s assistant, working alone, obtained a crystalline product and on November 5, 1900 Takamine filed a patent application on the substance entitled Grandular extractive product. He named the crystalline product Adrenalin. In 1901 he published two papers before the New York State Medical Society and the Society of Chemical Industry. He applied for and was awarded the right to use the word Adrenalin as a U.S. trademark. Parke-Davis started manufacturing and selling the product under the name Adrenalin. Besides it’s use in surgery it also found uses in cardiology, obstetrics and in the treatment of asthma and allergies. It also prolonged the action of some anesthetics.
The original patent was divided into five separate U.S. patents on June 2, 1903. Takamine also obtained British and Japanese patent rights on the drug. H. K. Mulford, a rival company to Parke-Davis, challenged the patent rights in court, but the court ruled on April 28, 1911 in favor of Parke-Davis.
Dr. Takamine is responsible for the cherry trees that have decorated Washington D. C. since 1911. The orginal trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo as a gesture of goodwill and funded by Takamine. The trees have become a tourist attraction.
Takamine, becoming increasingly wealthy and famous, was acknowledged by the emperor of Japan. He bestowed upon him the Order of the Rising Sun, Fourth Class. The emperor sent fifteen imperial cherry trees to Parke-Davis, where they planted them in front of their administrative offices.
He expanded his business operations in enzymes and pharmaceuticals. He invested in many Japanese industries including aluminum, caustic soda and Bakelite. He founded three major companies, which were Sankyo Pharmaceutical Company of Tokyo, the Takamine Laboratory of Clifton, New Jersey, and the International Takamine Ferment Company of New York. Among products manufactured at the Clifton company was Salvarsan, the first true chemotherapeutic agent.
Because of the widespread discrimination of the era, he was never able to become an American citizen, even though his wife was American. But he was able to move freely through American society because of his wealth. He dressed in Japanese clothing and promoted Japanese culture. His homes were furnished in traditional Japanese furniture. His summer home, Sho Fu Den, in Merriewold, New York still exists with much of its original furniture and is maintained by the Japanese Heritage Foundation. He founded the Nippon Club and the Japanese Society.
On July 22, 1922 Dr. Jokichi Takamine died of the liver ailment that plagued him most of his life. His funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, being placed in an elaborate crypt with a stained glass window depicting Mt. Fuji. His will left most of his estate to his wife Caroline. She commissioned a biography of her late husband, sold off the Japanese style homes and married an American man much younger than herself. Sadly he squandered much of her fortune. Jokichi Jr. died under mysterious circumstances before World War II.
After his death, the International Ferment Company of New York was dissolved, while Eban continued running the Clifton company. Eban died in 1953 and his widow sold the company to Miles Laboratories of Elkhart , Indiana. In 1978, Miles sold the company to Bayer Corporation. Several years later the facility was leveled and the land sold for suburban housing development. In 1989, Bayer sold the company to the Belgian company Solvay, who in turn sold it in 1996 to Genencor International. The old Miles facility in Elkhart was closed and the archival Takamine materials, which included his papers and some artifacts, where moved to The Great People Kanazawa Memorial Museum in Kanazawa, Japan.
The only part of Takamine’s business empire that survives is Sankyo Company, which is now one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Japan. Their research and development center in Shinagawa, Tokyo has a special room, which contains Takamine’s desk and some of his personal effects.
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