Masataka Ogawa and the search for nipponium

Masataka Ogawa

Source: Photograph courtesy of Tohoku University Archives; Frame © Swindler & Swindler @ Folio Art

Could a Japanese scientist, whose claim to have discovered an element was dismissed, been right all along? Kit Chapman investigates

Masataka Ogawa’s name is not widely known outside Japan. Yet almost 100 years after his death, his legacy remains a controversial point for a nation that was, at the time, attempting to establish a scientific foundation that would eventually see it become one of the premier research hubs of the world. In 1906, Ogawa may have discovered an element – but it might not have been the one he thought.