20 Nov /13


An entrepreneurial Japanese chemist introduced adrenaline to the world. Although the word had been mentioned before, it was Jōkichi Takamine who isolated the substance, as he reported in the American Journal of Pharmacy in 1901. Having learned English from a Dutch family as a child, Takamine always spoke the language with a Dutch accent, in spite of having studied in Scotland, marrying an American wife, moving to the USA in 1890 and living there for over 30 years.

Adrenaline, the hormone produced by the adrenal gland, is one of nature’s safety nets to help the body cope with stress. An adrenaline rush will typically bring a heightening of the sense, increased energy and strength and a temporary freedom from pain, even in the event of serious injury.  Whatever methods Jōkichi Takamine used to cope with stress in his daily life, they seem to have worked very well. He was extremely successful in Japan, founding the Toyko Artificial Fertilizer Company which became Nissan Chemical Industries, a company on the Nikkei 225. License revenues from takadiatase (an enzyme which also carries his name) and adrenaline made Takamine a very wealthy man, and he used his fame and fortune to promote Japan in America. His homes in America were built in Japanese style, he was one of the founders of the Nippon Club and in 1912 he donated the first Japanese cherry blossom trees to his adopted homeland. In time these trees would become a major tourist attraction in Washington D.C. and each Spring the city’s Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates Japan’s gift, which stood as a symbol of potential friendship and unity between the two countries even during the dark days of World War Two.

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