Tomitaro Makino, Father of Japanese Botany, Born (1862)

Japan celebrates “Botany Day” annually on April 24.  The celebration recognizes the life and career of Tomitaro Makino, the Father of Japanese Botany, on his birthday.

The Makino Botanical Gardens in Kochi Prefecture (photo by 663highland)

Tomitaro Makino was born on April 24, 1862, son of a wealthy brewer of the Japanese national drink, sake (died 1957).  His family met with tragedy, however, as both his father and mother died by the time he was five years old.  He was raised by his grandmother, who considered him a frail child.

Makino, however, must not have been frail.  He attended primary school, but his real interest was plants.  He spent his spare time roaming the countryside of his native Kochi Prefecture, hiking continuously, climbing mountains and collecting plants.  His extensive collecting revealed the high plant biodiversity of an ecosystem he loved, Mt. Yokogura.  Over the course of his life, he collected more than 400,000 specimens (now held in his herbarium at the University of Tokyo).

Tomitaro Makino, age 25 in 1887

Formal schooling was not for Makino, and he left at an early age to pursue botany independently.  He visited Tokyo when he was 19, meeting Japan’s leading botanists.  Tokyo, he decided was where he could learn the best, so he moved there in 1884.  He was granted access to the University of Tokyo’s herbarium and allowed to attend classes even though he was not a registered student.  He became a gifted illustrator of plants, using traditional Japanese brush and ink techniques

His affiliation with the University of Tokyo continued without interruption for nearly fifty years.  He founded The Botanical Magazine (Tokyo) in 1887, regularly publishing his own articles and botanical illustrations.  He was employed by the university starting in 1891, working for 47 years until retiring in 1939.  He founded the scholarly Journal of Japanese Botany in 1916 and served as its editor for the next two decades.  The university awarded him a doctorate in 1927, based on his acknowledged reputation, although he never sought such credentials and refused to use such titles.

Both his spirit and his work ethic were heroic.  He described 1500 new plant species, including wild species but also cultivated vegetables and ornamental plants.  In 1938, he published “The Illustrated Flora of Japan,” which contained 3235 illustrations, all drawn by Makino himself.  It remains a standard work to this day.  After retiring from the university, he devoted himself to educating the general public, both through popular presentations and magazine articles.

Tomitaro Makino, age 91 in 1953 (photo by Shigeru Tamura)

He well deserves his recognition as the Father of Japanese Botany.  He was made an Honorary Citizen of Tokyo and awarded the Japanese Order of Culture.  The botanical garden in his home of Kochi has been renamed in his honor.  At his death in 1957, at the age of 95, a memorial to him noted,

“When talking of plants he was fascinating, and when writing of them his prose was charming and witty.  It is no wonder that all who came in contact with him loved him.  By his efforts and his influence he advanced the standard of plant taxonomy in Japan to its present high levels, and this remains as a memorial of his great achievement as a botanist”

References:

Hisauchi, Kiyokata et al.  1957.  Rectificiation:  Tomitaro Makino 1862-1957.  Taxon 6(5):125-127.  Available at:  http://www.jstor.org.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/stable/pdf/1216089.pdf?refreqid=excelsior:cfc9b5186f8cfb6bc44dee8ce3bb3f26.  Accessed April 21, 2018.

Makino Botanical Garden.  An Overview.  Available at:  http://www.makino.or.jp/index_e.html.  Accessed April 21, 2018.

Makino Memorial Garden & Museum.  About Tomitaro Makino.  Available at:  http://www.makinoteien.jp/03-makino/e.html.  Accessed April 21, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

October 1
Yosemite National Park Created (1890)
October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
Secretary of the Interior Convicted in Teapot Dome Scandal (1929)
October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
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October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Dedicated (1889)
October 30
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October 31
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