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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Yoshio Fujita

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Interview with Dr. Yoshio Fujita
By David DeVorkin
At the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Meeting in Kyoto, Japan
August 26, 1997

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Yoshio Fujita; August 26, 1997

ABSTRACT: Dr. Yoshio Fujita discusses his background and education at the University of Tokyo; textbooks used; positions as assistant at the observatory then lecturer at the University of Tokyo; equipment used in his research; research interests during his career, including molecular spectra of stars, stellar atmospheres; trip to the U.S. to use the telescopes at Lick and Yerkes Observatories; briefly touches on the project to build a large telescope in Japan; trip to use the Victoria telescope for training to use the telescope built in Japan; professional memberships.

Transcript

DeVorkin:

This is an interview with Yoshio Fujita. We're at the International Astronomical Union Meeting in Kyoto. Dr. Fujita, could you tell me a bit about your early life?

Fujita:

I was born in 1908 in Fukui Prefecture. My native place is not Fukui, it's a little town named Mikuni.

DeVorkin:

Could you tell me a little bit about who your father was, what he did and what your early life was like?

Fujita:

My father was a pressman. He worked in a newspaper as a writer and sometimes as a chief editor. And he had a special talent in Waka, which is a form of poetry which has 31 characters together.

DeVorkin:

I don't know if this is a proper question: what was your family's class?

Fujita:

Just middle.

DeVorkin:

What would that be? Merchant?

Fujita:

My grandfather was a pharmacist, something like a merchant class.

DeVorkin:

Did your father have a specialty?

Fujita:

Yes, he liked to write novels, essays.

DeVorkin:

Editorials?

Fujita:

Yes, sometimes, and sometimes he wrote fiction.

DeVorkin:

What were his personal interests?

Fujita:

Personal interests, to read various kinds of books.

DeVorkin:

Was he interested in science at all?

Fujita:

No, no, mainly literature.

DeVorkin:

Did he have schooling? Did he have a college education?

Fujita:

He had no special education, only he got his knowledge about the science from books.

DeVorkin:

So he read about science in books.

Fujita:

Just a little.

DeVorkin:

Now, did you get interested in science from your father or in other ways?

Fujita:

Another way.

DeVorkin:

Could you explain that?

Fujita:

My country is called snow country. In the wintertime, we have a lot of snow. And it's often cloudy, or snowy, and sometimes rainy. So it is very hard to see clear sky. But if it clears up, however, the sky is beautiful, wonderful constellations. And I was very happy to see with my naked eye a beautiful constellation. And first I was interested in constellations, and I got to know some details of stars.

DeVorkin:

Did you read books, or were there teachers in school who helped you?

Fujita:

Only books. I had quite interest in sky, stars, stars themselves.

DeVorkin:

When did you learn there was such a thing as astronomy?

Fujita:

I started my school career, I graduated in astronomy from the University of Tokyo in 1931, in the Showa era.

DeVorkin:

Well let's back up a little bit and find out how you got to the University of Tokyo and what courses you took and who your teachers were.

Fujita:

In that day we had another school system. We had high school. It is not the same as high school now. It's quite different, a little higher grade.

DeVorkin:

Sort of like the European system?

Fujita:

Yes. We called it First High School. We had First, Second, Third and Fourth High Schools.

DeVorkin:

And you were in the First?

Fujita:

First High School.

DeVorkin:

That was the highest?

Fujita:

Yes, it was a school very difficult to pass. There were many applicants. So I graduated from the First High School in Showa "Sunnay" after three years in high school.

DeVorkin:

So 1928?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

When you graduated from high school, did you know you wanted to go into astronomy?

Fujita:

First I thought that I would learn more about mathematics or astronomy. But finally I decided to get into the astronomy course.

DeVorkin:

And how did you make that decision?

Fujita:

I had the impression of beautiful constellations. Very simple thought I think.

DeVorkin:

Do you remember the textbooks and the courses and the teachers who you had in the University of Tokyo?

Fujita:

Oh. My teacher was Yusuke Hagihara. He was a specialist in celestial mechanics.

DeVorkin:

Well known. Was he also doing minor planet work?

Fujita:

Oh yes, he did that.

DeVorkin:

What textbooks did you use? Did you have western textbooks or Japanese textbooks?

Fujita:

Some western. Celestial Mechanics by, let's see –

DeVorkin:

Tisserand?

Fujita:

Tisserand, yes. You know the book? [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Yes. Tisserand is famous, Celestial Mechanics.

Fujita:

Very famous.

DeVorkin:

Did you read Watson, Theoretical Astronomy?

Fujita:

No, Russell.

DeVorkin:

Oh, Russell, Dugan and Stewart?

Fujita:

Yes, that's right: their General Astronomy.

DeVorkin:

And then the Tisserand was for advanced work?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

So from 1928 through 1931 you studied astronomy with Hagihara.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

What were the classes like? How did he teach? Did he lecture?

Fujita:

Yes. Usually he had three or four courses, celestial mechanics and sometimes astrophysics, theoretical astrophysics.

DeVorkin:

Theoretical astrophysics. Now, for Hagihara, who was very mathematical, what was in the theoretical astrophysics course? What did he teach?

Fujita:

Sometimes theoretical equilibrium of stellar atmospheres and also the formation of the stellar spectrum, applying theory.

DeVorkin:

These were all theoretical astrophysics?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And do you recall if he used Eddington’s textbook?

Fujita:

Oh yes. Internal Constitution of the Stars. We had colloquia in connection with that book. I remember that book was published in 1929 in Japan. There was Cosmology by Jeans.

DeVorkin:

Now all of these books you saw as a student under Hagihara between 1928 and 1931?

Fujita:

That's right.

DeVorkin:

And you used them to train?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

What kind of exams or what were the requirements for graduation in 1931? Did you have to write a thesis or take exams?

Fujita:

Both of them.

DeVorkin:

What was your thesis on?

Fujita:

My thesis was on experimental astrophysics. I took objective prism spectra of asteroids, especially a very famous asteroid: Eros.

DeVorkin:

Eros, yes.

Fujita:

Do you know? [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Yes. Eros, in 1930-31, had one of its close approaches.

Fujita:

Oh yes. I had quite an interest in taking some spectra of asteroids.

DeVorkin:

What kind of laboratory equipment, what kind of telescopes did you have available?

Fujita:

We had various small telescopes. A 7-inch and an 8-inch.

DeVorkin:

And these were astrographs or refractors?

Fujita:

Refractor, with objective prisms of 30 degrees.

DeVorkin:

Who maintained the observatory? Did Hagihara?

Fujita:

No. Hirayama. He was very famous in study of asteroids. You know?

DeVorkin:

Yes, yes, the Hirayama asteroid groups.

Fujita:

Oh yes, sure. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Yes, absolutely. So you had small equipment. Was the observatory on the University of Tokyo campus?

Fujita:

Yes. At that time the university astronomy department was almost in the center of Tokyo.

DeVorkin:

Did you have other courses, like in physics? And I'd like to know in particular, if you remember, what kinds of physics courses you had, and what you thought of physics at that time.

Fujita:

I took courses in optics, particularly experimental optics, and we had some laboratory experiments.

DeVorkin:

Any theoretical physics, quantum mechanics courses?

Fujita:

Yes. Some teachers taught us quantum mechanics, and statistics.

DeVorkin:

Quantum statistics or statistical mechanics.

Fujita:

Statistical mechanics.

DeVorkin:

Did you have any courses under Hantaro Nagaoka?

Fujita:

No. He was already retired.

DeVorkin:

Okay. So he was not at the University of Tokyo.

Fujita:

No.

DeVorkin:

He was at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Did you have any connection with them as an undergraduate or have any courses in laboratory spectroscopy?

Fujita:

No, we had no connection. After graduation, I worked in the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory as an assistant.

DeVorkin:

While at the University of Tokyo, as an undergraduate, did you have a scholarship, or how were your expenses and your living paid for?

Fujita:

From my father. [laughs] Only from my father. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Your family was economically well off?

Fujita:

Not so well, but average. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Were you the oldest son or —?

Fujita:

Yes, the oldest son. My father had three sons and two daughters, five in all. And I was the eldest.

DeVorkin:

What did your two younger brothers end up doing? Did they go to college as well?

Fujita:

My first brother graduated college and went to Brazil as an engineer. He graduated from engineering college and worked in Sao Paolo. My brother went to Waseda University. But unfortunately he passed away during the early school year.

DeVorkin:

Did your sisters go to college at all, or not?

Fujita:

No, no.

DeVorkin:

You were supported by your father for your education. How did he feel about your becoming an astronomer?

Fujita:

[laughs], I am not sure, but he told me that's okay if you go through. No problem.

DeVorkin:

If you're successful, it's okay.

Fujita:

[laughs]

DeVorkin:

Is that what he meant?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And you evidently were successful.

Fujita:

[laughs] I'm not sure. But anyway, I got a position in the university as an assistant.

DeVorkin:

As the assistant to Hagihara or Hirayama?

Fujita:

To Hagihara. And a physics teacher was also working in the observatory, Professor Tanaka. He was also professor in the physics department of the University of Tokyo.

DeVorkin:

And he was also working at the observatory?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

What was his specialty? What was he working on?

Fujita:

Spectroscopy. He had a very nice laboratory in the observatory. At that time he had a quite nice spectrograph I think from France, a Jobin spectrograph.

DeVorkin:

And this was a spectrograph for a laboratory or for the telescope?

Fujita:

Laboratory spectrography. He had special interest in the spectrum of heavy water: D2O.

DeVorkin:

Now, why was he at the astronomical observatory if he was doing this kind of work?

Fujita:

Because the director of the observatory thought that it would be quite wise to have a physicist on the staff. It was necessary for astronomy to include basic experiments to make astronomy more than nice. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Let me ask about your senior thesis when you took spectra of asteroids. What was your purpose in taking the spectra of asteroids? What was the goal?

Fujita:

Because I thought that Eros was quite an interesting asteroid, and by using objective prisms we could gain some idea about the atmosphere or something like that of Eros.

DeVorkin:

Oh, if Eros had a small residual atmosphere, like a nascent comet.

Fujita:

Yes. [affirmative].

DeVorkin:

What were your duties as assistant at the observatory?

Fujita:

I had two duties. One was to fix the German telescope, the Zeiss tower telescope which included a heliostat and grating spectrograph.

DeVorkin:

Who made the decision to buy the Zeiss spectrograph and build the solar tower?

Fujita:

That's Hirayama. Another Hirayama.

DeVorkin:

Oh, that's right, there were two.

Fujita:

Two Hirayamas. The first one was named Kyotsuma[?].

DeVorkin:

He was the asteroid man.

Fujita:

Yes, yes, and the other Hirayama was Shin, who had a special interest solar physics.

DeVorkin:

So you helped him set up the tower telescope.

Fujita:

Yes. At that time Sotome was the director.

DeVorkin:

He must have been sympathetic as well. Do you know where the money came from to build these telescopes? The observatory bought a 26-inch Zeiss refractor, a big telescope.

Fujita:

Oh yes, and also a tower telescope like the Potsdam tower.

DeVorkin:

And that was a direct copy of the Potsdam.

Fujita:

Yes [affirmative].

DeVorkin:

Your responsibility was to work with the tower telescope?

Fujita:

For a while, yes.

DeVorkin:

What were the projects? What were your duties?

Fujita:

To photograph the Sun and also take spectrograms of high dispersion using grating spectrograph.

DeVorkin:

Were any of the instruments made or modified in the shops that you had at the observatory, or were they all directly Zeiss equipment?

Fujita:

26-inch refractor, and solar tower telescope, and something like an 8-inch refractor.

DeVorkin:

Yes. But were there any machine shop staff or optical shop staff for people who could help build equipment for the telescope?

Fujita:

Yes. We had a very nice microphotometer.

DeVorkin:

Was that purchased, or was it built?

Fujita:

Purchased.

DeVorkin:

So your job at first was to make sure everything was working, and to start taking photographs of the solar surface, and also high dispersion spectra of the solar surface?

Fujita:

Yes. And also I was engaged in helping Tanaka take high-dispersion spectra of heavy water.

DeVorkin:

So you were working on the heavy water as well.

Fujita:

In the vacuum chamber. He was doing ultraviolet work.

DeVorkin:

How far into the ultraviolet were you going?

Fujita:

About 3100 Angstroms. And I was quite amazed with the beautiful structure of heavy water.

DeVorkin:

What was his purpose in determining the structure of heavy water, what was he doing? Was he using quantum mechanical theory to understand the molecular structure of the water?

Fujita:

Yes, to understand molecular structure.

DeVorkin:

Did you have enough physics background to help with the theoretical reductions or the reductions of the observations?

Fujita:

Not so much, but anyway I was interested in understanding molecular structure.

DeVorkin:

This was all ultraviolet. Were you interested in going to the infrared part of the spectrum at all?

Fujita:

No. I think it was quite different going to the infrared.

DeVorkin:

Did you see any connection of this work with possible work in astrophysics?

Fujita:

I didn't know about that, why he was interested in that way, Tanaka. He did not tell anything about that. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Okay. What about in nuclear physics, the use of heavy water?

Fujita:

No. I don't think he had any interest in nuclear physics. He was mainly interested in special techniques for making high vacuums. It was necessary to have quite a high vacuum to make his experiment successful.

DeVorkin:

What kind of sources did Tanaka use, and did he do any magnetic splitting or use the Stark Effect or the Zeeman effect in his study?

Fujita:

No, no, he didn't do anything like that.

DeVorkin:

For six years, from 1931 to 1937, you worked as an assistant at the observatory. Did you have the ability or freedom at all to do any of your own research?

Fujita:

Just a little.

DeVorkin:

And what research was that?

Fujita:

I had an interest in the molecular spectra of stars. Late-type stars, showing bands of titanium oxide, zirconium oxide, C2, CN, and so on — mainly diatomic molecules.

DeVorkin:

Who did you work with or talk to? Were there other people interested in the spectra of late-type stars or spectra of stars generally doing spectroscopy at the observatory?

Fujita:

At that time I had no colleagues.

DeVorkin:

Okay. What about Tanaka? Did he continue to work on heavy water, or did he do other experiments at the observatory?

Fujita:

Mainly heavy water.

DeVorkin:

Heavy water. And he continued in that. Okay.

Fujita:

After six years I changed my position to Tokyo University in the department of astronomy.

DeVorkin:

So you went back from the observatory to the campus, to the department of astronomy.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

What was your position title?

Fujita:

Lecturer.

DeVorkin:

Lecturer. Okay. Now, during this time, this was 1937, I know that Toshio Takamine had a colloquium series.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Could you tell me about that? Did you go to it?

Fujita:

It was held in the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research (Riken). Takamine had an office and laboratory there, so once a week we got together, Hagihara, me, Takamine, and some physicist. We got together and had a colloquium.

DeVorkin:

Every week?

Fujita:

Every week. And various subjects were discussed.

DeVorkin:

Each one of you picked a subject, and one person spoke each week?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

How did you pick your subjects?

Fujita:

I took some from the Astrophysical Journal, and some from the Monthly Notices of England.

DeVorkin:

So you had those journals. Were they relatively up to date? Did you get recent journals pretty quickly?

Fujita:

Yes, we could afford that service.

DeVorkin:

Did you feel that at the University of Tokyo you were doing mainstream astronomy, or did you feel as if it was very far from the centers of modem astrophysics? Did you feel that you were competitive?

Fujita:

Because we had no large telescope, a very small one, and since my idea was to get high dispersion spectra of late-type stars, it was quite necessary to work with a large telescope. So I was eager to apply to the United States where they have very large telescopes.

DeVorkin:

Well, before we go there, before we go to your time in the United States, could you tell me more about Takamine and what his influence may have been? How important was this colloquium series for your learning more about astrophysics? Was it helpful? Was it an important part of your development, do you think?

Fujita:

Kotani was also a member of our colloquium, and he gave talks. He was a theoretical physicist.

DeVorkin:

How did you know Takamine's research, and what did you think of his research? Was it valuable? Did you understand what he was doing?

Fujita:

Yes. I think he did some quite valuable work on the Stark Effect. He had visited the United States, and I think made some experiments at Mt. Wilson.

DeVorkin:

Correct. Right. But was he well respected in the physics department and among your colleagues? Was he considered to be a senior member?

Fujita:

Oh yes, of course. But he didn't like to teach. [laughs] So he was never a professor in the University of Tokyo.

DeVorkin:

Could he have been if he wanted to?

Fujita:

I don't think he wanted a professorship. He belonged only to Riken.

DeVorkin:

That is the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research.

Fujita:

Yes, that's right.

DeVorkin:

Could you tell whether he was happy working there?

Fujita:

I think he was very happy, because of the free atmosphere of Riken.

DeVorkin:

You speak English very well. Did you know English at this time, when you were a student reading the Astrophysical Journal and Monthly Notices?

Fujita:

Reading was alright, but the problem was to speak. I had a very hard time speaking when I went to the States.

DeVorkin:

At first. You've certainly done very well. Now we'll get to that just in a second, but one of my interests in Takamine is that he went to the United States many times. Did he talk about the importance of going to the United States or the value of it? Was it because of him that you got interested in going to the United States? Did he have influence on you?

Fujita:

He didn't talk about it.

DeVorkin:

So your colloquium series was basically what we would call a journal club. You would read the recent literature, and then debate the topics?

Fujita:

Yes, I published a few papers during my six years career about the equilibrium of diatomic molecules in the stellar atmosphere, particularly in cooler stars, together with a theoretical discussion. I think my paper generated interest among some people in the States, particularly Chandrasekhar and Bidelman.

DeVorkin:

Oh. So this is how you decided to go to the United States? You had done the theoretical work in Japan and you wanted to do the observational work in the United States?

Fujita:

Yes, I wished to test my theory by direct observation, mainly relative abundances of carbon to oxygen, carbon to nitrogen, and so on.

DeVorkin:

Okay, I'm just writing that down.

Fujita:

In such cases it is necessary to have high dispersion spectra of very weak stars.

DeVorkin:

Late-type red stars?

Fujita:

Late-type, yes.

DeVorkin:

Were you doing red giants or red dwarfs?

Fujita:

Red giants.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Some of them are pretty bright. Were you working in the red region of the spectrum now?

Fujita:

Yes. Photographic infrared.

DeVorkin:

Well, how did you apply, and how did you get an appointment to go to the United States?

Fujita:

Oh, I got a Martin Kellogg Fellowship from the Lick Observatory. I think it was through the kindness of Dr. Shane.

DeVorkin:

C.D. Shane.

Fujita:

C.D. Shane, yes, and also I think Chandrasekhar recommended another fellowship from the Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago.

DeVorkin:

Okay. So you received money in the United States from the Martin Kellogg and from the Yerkes organizations.

Fujita:

Yes. Martin Kellogg for three months, and Yerkes for one year. Professor Kuiper also recommended me — and so I was obliged to help Kuiper in the asteroid program.

DeVorkin:

Did you apply by writing letters to them or did they read your papers and then write to you? Do you remember how it worked?

Fujita:

I applied.

DeVorkin:

Who did you write to?

Fujita:

Chandrasekhar and Shane.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Did you write at all to Otto Struve?

Fujita:

No, I didn't write to Struve.

DeVorkin:

Okay. So you came to the United States.

Fujita:

In 1950.

DeVorkin:

'50?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Oh, so this is much, much later. What happened in 1938? Oh, in '38 you went to the faculty at —

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Let's fill in the 1938 to 1950 period first. Of course this is World War II, and it's a very difficult time. Could you, if you want to talk about it, could you tell me what your experiences were? Did you continue at the university, or did you get enlisted in the war?

Fujita:

During the war our department moved to Suwa Nagano Prefecture.

DeVorkin:

And this was the physics department, or everybody?

Fujita:

The Physics department and astronomy department went, together with the students.

DeVorkin:

With the students. So what did you do there? Did you continue teaching?

Fujita:

Yes. We could keep teaching in Suwa.

DeVorkin:

You moved in 1945.

Fujita:

Just halfway. And the war was finished at that time.

DeVorkin:

Yes. So you were able to continue to teach in Tokyo until you were removed?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Was your family moved with you? I mean, were you married by then?

Fujita:

I was married just as the war started, and I had one boy at that time. My family moved to my country during war — to Fukui.

DeVorkin:

To your ancestral home. Okay, so you had no contact with the war, you continued teaching and doing astronomy.

Fujita:

Yes. Just a little. But I was fortunate to be able to continue.

DeVorkin:

When you came back to Tokyo after the war, you came back to the campus, hadn't the campus been terribly damaged?

Fujita:

Oh yes. Nothing was left.

DeVorkin:

So what was life like for you? What did you have to do to get things moving again?

Fujita:

The University had funds to construct barracks. We stayed there for a while with my family in a small room.

DeVorkin:

That must have been very difficult.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Is this the time that you were working on the theory of molecules in stellar atmospheres?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

So had you always been interested in theory, or was it a case of not being able to do anything but theory after the war because there was no equipment left? I take it the observatory was destroyed too?

Fujita:

Yes, that's right.

DeVorkin:

In 1950 you came to the United States.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Did your wife and your child — was it a son — accompany you?

Fujita:

No, I came by myself.

DeVorkin:

You stayed a year at Yerkes after visiting Lick for three months.

Fujita:

In December, at Christmas time, I moved from Lick to Yerkes.

DeVorkin:

It must have been very, very cold. At Lick, what telescopes did you use to observe?

Fujita:

The 36-inch refractor.

DeVorkin:

And that provided a high enough dispersion for your work?

Fujita:

At that time, yes. I got some fine spectrograms, and got some results. Dr. Shane encouraged me to publish them in the Astrophysical Journal, (1951).

DeVorkin:

You worked with Dr. Shane primarily?

Fujita:

No. By myself.

DeVorkin:

So as a Kellogg Fellow you were doing your own work.

Fujita:

Yes. Sometimes Herbig —

DeVorkin:

Herbig, yes.

Fujita:

Herbig helped me very much. He was an important person at that time at the Lick Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Yes. And he was interested in stellar spectra, but more early spectra.

Fujita:

Yes, that's quite true.

DeVorkin:

And you were doing late. So you didn't run into each other. Did you use the Crossley, the 36-inch Crossley at all?

Fujita:

I didn't use the Crossley, mainly the refractor.

DeVorkin:

Was there a reason why?

Fujita:

No special reason.

DeVorkin:

Now, that was for three months, and then you moved to Yerkes.

Fujita:

Yes. And then I moved to Yerkes, and used the 40-inch refractor with a spectrograph.

DeVorkin:

Do you remember which spectrograph you used at that time?

Fujita:

The one directly attached to the refractor.

DeVorkin:

Was it the Morgan?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Who helped you most at Yerkes?

Fujita:

Bidelman. He was there at that time, and I had the same office with him.

DeVorkin:

When you came to the United States and you saw how astronomy was done, first at Lick Observatory and then at Yerkes Observatory, were you excited by what you saw?

Fujita:

Oh yes, I was quite excited.

DeVorkin:

Did it change your mind about how astronomy had to change in Japan? Did it give you new ideas?

Fujita:

Well, I thought that it was quite necessary to have a larger refractor.

DeVorkin:

Was the 26-inch Zeiss completely destroyed?

Fujita:

No, it was not destroyed, but we had no auxiliary equipment for the telescope.

DeVorkin:

You had no large spectrograph?

Fujita:

No.

DeVorkin:

I see. What equipment did you have with the 26-inch refractor? Was it just photographic?

Fujita:

Just photographic.

DeVorkin:

Was that for astrometric work?

Fujita:

Astrometric work, yes.

DeVorkin:

What were the main accomplishments do you think during your year at Yerkes Observatory?

Fujita:

One thing was the identification of asteroids by Blink photometer, following Kuiper.

DeVorkin:

So you did blink work for Kuiper?

Fujita:

Oh yes. Every day in the morning from 8 o'clock to 12 noon.

DeVorkin:

What about when you observed? If you observed at night, did you still have to blink in the morning?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Ooo!

Fujita:

Quite a heavy work load.

DeVorkin:

Were you able to perform the observations that you wanted to perform in spite of the asteroid blinking? Were they successful?

Fujita:

Yes. People were very kind to me, and Morgan gave me helpful suggestions every time I observed. As a result, I got many spectrograms at that time. I also had high dispersion spectrograms already taken by other observers, and which they were kind enough to lend me.

DeVorkin:

Was there any opportunity to visit the McDonald Observatory in Texas?

Fujita:

I was not fortunate to observe in McDonald.

DeVorkin:

Did you want to?

Fujita:

Yes, I wanted to, but I had no chance to visit the McDonald Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Oh, that must have been a disappointment.

Fujita:

Yes. Later I was able to observe at Mt. Wilson and also at Mt. Palomar.

DeVorkin:

When was that?

Fujita:

1972 at Mt. Wilson, and 1974 at Mt. Palomar.

DeVorkin:

Wonderful.

Fujita:

And Babcock, the director at that time, was very kind to give me the idea of trying very faint stars with CCD's.

DeVorkin:

Let's go back now to the 1950 visit. Were your observations sufficient to test your theory?

Fujita:

Not completely, but I took many spectrograms of carbon stars.

DeVorkin:

Carbon stars.

Fujita:

Yes. Many carbon stars.

DeVorkin:

And did you bring the spectrograms back here to Japan to analyze, or did you analyze them at Yerkes?

Fujita:

At Yerkes. Mainly at Yerkes.

DeVorkin:

And you published papers while you were there.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

What was the most important lesson that you learned about astronomy while you were at Yerkes? Did you learn anything new about how you wanted to do astronomy coming back to Japan?

Fujita:

The main lesson was the need to observe with a large telescope. At the time our people were considering building a large telescope.

DeVorkin:

Who was leading the project to build a large telescope, and who was deciding what kind of telescope it would be?

Fujita:

Hagihara.

DeVorkin:

Hagihara?

Fujita:

Yes. He was at that time director of Tokyo Observatory and he asked me to give him some thoughts about a large telescope. Our people thought about which company we could order a large telescope. We chose Grubb-Parsons of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.

DeVorkin:

Why did you choose the 74-inch Grubb Parsons design instead of the let's say for instance the 82-inch McDonald design? Was that an option?

Fujita:

I don't know there was any special reason why we chose Grubb-Parsons other than the fact that Grubb and Parsons had orders from many observatories at that time for reflectors about that size — 70 or 80-inch.

DeVorkin:

These were almost like copies of the Victoria telescope, is that right?

Fujita:

Yes. And I was fortunate to make some observations in Victoria.

DeVorkin:

Oh. When was that?

Fujita:

1969? No, 1960.

DeVorkin:

1960. Okay. When did the 74-inch reflector actually get built here?

Fujita:

1961 I think. Yes. I had one observational run in Victoria with the 72-inch telescope. After finishing, I came back. Then we started a new observational program with our new telescope, 74. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

So the telescope here was already being built when you were in Victoria.

Fujita:

Yes, during my stay in Victoria it was being constructed. When I came back, we just started using it.

DeVorkin:

You came back to Japan in 1951-52, I guess.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And did it take ten years to build the telescope?

Fujita:

Yes. Ten years.

DeVorkin:

Now, why did it take so long? Was this a question of money?

Fujita:

Of course a question of money.

DeVorkin:

How was the money found?

Fujita:

Our government was quite tight-fisted at that time, and it was very hard to get funds from the government.

DeVorkin:

So without the telescope —

Fujita:

But Hagihara was very anxious to get the funds from the government, and finally he succeeded. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

Let me ask just a few questions about Hagihara.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

Who did he train under? Who were his teachers?

Fujita:

Hirayama, K. Hirayama. Yes, the asteroid man.

DeVorkin:

Do you know if Hagihara ever came to the United States or to Europe to observe, like you?

Fujita:

He had no observational requirements. He was a theorist.

DeVorkin:

Do you know of other Japanese astronomers of your generation or of Hagihara's generation who came to the United States to use telescopes?

Fujita:

Only one or two.

DeVorkin:

Do you know their names?

Fujita:

One was Issei Yamamoto from Kyoto.

DeVorkin:

And do you know what he did, what his specialty was?

Fujita:

He had an interest in comets, asteroids, and so on.

DeVorkin:

Who else do you know, do you remember?

Fujita:

Ichinoe, [pronounced each-ee-noy'-uh]. I think he observed a little at the Yerkes Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Where did Yamamoto go? Did he go to Yerkes also?

Fujita:

He went to Lick I think. I'm not sure.

DeVorkin:

I'll find that out. I'm trying to get an idea of how many did come over and why they did. Okay then, between 1951 and 1961, you had no big telescope. So did you continue to work in theory? Or did you make observations? Did you ever build a spectrograph for the 26-inch refractor?

Fujita:

No, we had no idea how to build a spectrograph.

DeVorkin:

Today, however, there are Japanese telescope manufacturers who build telescopes of all sorts — Goto, Minolta, Nikon, and Takahashi. Did any of these companies exist, and were they building telescopes at this time?

Fujita:

No.

DeVorkin:

So there were no companies building telescopes in Japan in the 1950's.

Fujita:

Yes, that's quite true.

DeVorkin:

Do you have any idea how they started building telescopes or why? Did astronomers in Japan start saying, "We should be building," "The Japanese should be able to build their own telescopes rather than relying on telescopes from other countries"?

Fujita:

I have no idea. Nippon Kongaku, the optical company, had some interest in making a mirror, but the biggest mirror which Nippon Kongaku tried was a 1-meter Schmidt.

DeVorkin:

When was that? About when did they make that telescope?

Fujita:

I don't know when it was built. That telescope is now in Kiso Observatory.

DeVorkin:

Okay. I can find out when. I don't think I gave you a chance to tell me what kind of research you did between 1951 and '61 when the new telescope was opened. What was your main line of work? Was it theoretical?

Fujita:

Theoretical, mainly theoretical.

DeVorkin:

And you stayed in the study of late-type stars?

Fujita:

Yes. Problems of the dissociation equilibrium of stars. Mainly diatomic molecules.

DeVorkin:

Did you start having students working in the same area?

Fujita:

Yes, I had some students after I became a professor at the University of Tokyo. Two people had special interest in late-type stars. Yamashita Tsuji and Utsumi.

DeVorkin:

And they're working in that field now.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And I take it you started using the 74-inch when it was built?

Fujita:

Mm-hmm [affirmative].

DeVorkin:

Did you go to Victoria specifically to train on how to use the telescope?

Fujita:

Yes. It was a very nice opportunity for me to train on a telescope of the same size.

DeVorkin:

Oh, absolutely. What spectrograph did you use? Did you get a spectrograph from Grubb-Parsons also?

Fujita:

In Victoria?

DeVorkin:

Well, here.

Fujita:

Yes. We ordered it at the same time as the telescope.

DeVorkin:

After that, would you say you became an observer, an observing astronomer again, with the telescope?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And you continued to test your theories?

Fujita:

Yes. I wrote many papers on carbon stars as a result of working with our telescope.

DeVorkin:

You must have been very well known for your work in carbon stars, but I also would like to know how was your profession changing? Were you getting active in the astronomical societies in Japan, or in building institutes, or in the International Astronomical Union? Did you start getting active in a larger field of science?

Fujita:

Yes. I was president of IAU Commission 29, Stellar Spectra, for three years.

DeVorkin:

You joined the IAU as a member of Commission 29 I take it.

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

And eventually became the president.

Fujita:

Quite a long time ago. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

I didn't realize that you are now the president of the Japan Academy of Sciences. Is that correct?

Fujita:

Yes. I am now president of the Japan Academy.

DeVorkin:

That's like our National Academy.

Fujita:

Uh-huh, that's right.

DeVorkin:

And usually when someone becomes President of the Academy, takes this position, it's a national position; he is concerned about science policy and the role of science in society and a lot of very large issues. Was there a time in your career when you started getting interested in these larger issues too?

Fujita:

I had no special interest, but our members elected me to the presidency. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

I see. So what are your duties as president of the academy?

Fujita:

The main object of the academy is to bestow awards every year.

DeVorkin:

Academy awards?

Fujita:

Academy prize. We say academy prize.

DeVorkin:

Prize?

Fujita:

Yes. And it includes an Imperial Prize too. One Imperial Prize and eight Academy Prizes are awarded every year.

DeVorkin:

The academy awards these prizes to scientists.

Fujita:

To scientists. It is the highest prize in Japan.

DeVorkin:

Is that the primary function of the academy, to award the prizes?

Fujita:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

I see. So unlike the National Academy in the United States that serves the government, that advises the government on science policy and helps that way, your academy does not do that.

Fujita:

No, we don't do that. That's another organization. The Science Council.

DeVorkin:

Oh, the Science Council.

Fujita:

Another duty is to elect our members, because we have quite a strict limitation in the number of academy people. Only 150 in all.

DeVorkin:

It's very, very elite.

Fujita:

Seventy in literature and 80 in science.

DeVorkin:

Interesting. That's a very different organization from our's and very exclusive.

Fujita:

The average age of members is 80 now, so usually we have around ten people who pass away each year. So we must continually elect new members. That's our obligation, and it is very hard to make a selection.

DeVorkin:

Yes, I imagine. It must be a great honor. Is there anything about your life and your career that we have not covered that you would like to have recorded at this point?

Fujita:

No, not especially.

DeVorkin:

Do you think we covered just the highlights of your life reasonably well?

Fujita:

Uh-huh [affirmative]. I'm an honorary citizen of Fukui City.

DeVorkin:

Honorary citizen. That's a high prize. Well thank you very much for the time you have given me.

Fujita:

You are welcome. I was very glad to talk to you.

DeVorkin:

I enjoyed it very much. I think I learned a lot more about early modem astrophysics in Japan. Do you think you were the only one who was doing astronomical spectroscopy in Japan in the 1930s?

Fujita:

1930s. Yes, I think so.

DeVorkin:

Did that make you feel a little lonely?

Fujita:

Yes, I felt that way. [laughs]

DeVorkin:

When was your first IAU meeting?

Fujita:

IAU? Germany. It was 1938. Hamburg. Perhaps 1935. I'm not sure.

DeVorkin:

That was your first IAU meeting.

Fujita:

Mm-hmm [affirmative].

DeVorkin:

I just have a second on the tape. What was your impression of being at the IAU meeting?

Fujita:

That time?

DeVorkin:

Yes. Was it very exciting for you?

Fujita:

Yes, it was an exciting happening for me.

DeVorkin:

This is when you were elected to Commission 29.

Fujita:

Before that time.

DeVorkin:

Oh, before that time. I can certainly find that from transactions, when you were elected. Thank you again.

Fujita:

You're welcome. I was very glad to talk to you.