Genzo SHIMAZU (The First) (島津源蔵 (初代))

The first Genzo SHIMAZU (June 25, 1839-December 8, 1894) is the founder of Shimadzu Corporation and a Japanese inventor. After his death, his son Umejiro became the successor and named himself Genzo SHIMAZU the second, after his father.


He was born on June 25, 1839 as the second son of Seibei SHIMAZU who engaged in manufacture of butsugu ({Buddhist altar fittings}) at around Samegai Uonotana (around today's Horikawa-dori Rokujo-dori). He practiced his family business and in 1860 at the age of 21, he opened his own shop at Kiyamachi, Nijo-dori Street. The place is close to the terminal near Takase-gawa River (Kyoto Prefecture) shipping traffic service and was an important distribution point at the time. Kyoto Prefecture constructed the Industrial Site and Seimi-kyoku (an office in charge of chemistry) at around the place in 1870 for the encouragement of new industry, and Genzo came to visit Seimi-kyoku frequently.

Genzo obtained a broad knowledge of science there and started to manufacture laboratory instruments for teaching use and founded Shimadzu Corporation on March 31, 1875. At the first National Industrial Exhibition in 1877, he exhibited tin-made medical "bougie" and earned an honorable mention from the Secretary of Interior, Toshimichi OKUBO. In the same year, Kyoto Prefecture planned to launch the first manned balloon in Japan for the purpose of enlightenment of scientific thought, and Genzo was appointed to the chief executive responsible for the plan.

The body of the balloon was made with "habutae," a smooth, glossy silk cloth with a fine weave, coated with resin rubber melted with sesame oil, and hydrogen gas, generated from the reaction of iron and 10 barrels of sulfuric acid, filled in the balloon. On December 6 when "Shokon no matsuri" (memorial service for the war dead) was taking place, at the square of Sento Imperial Palace, the balloon flew up to a height of 36m in front of 50,000 spectators. It is said that this success made Genzo better known.

Kyoto Prefecture invited and hired Gottfried Wagener at the Seimi-kyoku for three years from February 3 during the next year 1878. His major task was to teach chemistry to Japanese people and he also had chance to contact with Genzo who visited the place in order to make laboratory instruments. The wooden lathe donated by Wagener is existing at the Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall. In a catalog from that time, is a distilling machine with the caption; "Wagener's new invention" is listed. Later, Genzo also became involved in science education, and he published "craftzine of physical and chemical science" in 1886, and also worked as a teacher at the Department of metal craft of the Kyoto Prefectural Normal School (today's Kyoto University of Education) for a year.

On December 8, 1894, he died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 55. His eldest son Umejiro succeeded the name of Genzo the second, and also succeeded the company.

Brief Personal History

In 1839, he was born as the second son of Seibei SHIMAZU.

He opened his shop at Kiyamachi, Nijo-dori Street in 1860.

His first son, Umejiro was born in 1869.

He founded Shimadzu Corporation in 1875.

He exhibited his products at the first National Industrial Exhibition in 1877. He succeeded with the first manned balloon flight in Japan in the same year.

He died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 55 in 1894.

[Original Japanese]