The Yomiuri ShimbunThe following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Dec. 23 issue.
* * *
Some of the best scientists in the world gather at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the United States. It is said that Dr. Hideki Yukawa was invited to the research institute as a visiting professor in 1948.
A man with shaggy white hair greeted Yukawa there. He was Albert Einstein, a physician who suggested to a U.S. president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] that the United States should start its own program to produce nuclear bombs, earlier than Germany. It is said that Einstein shed tears and apologized to Yukawa shortly after meeting the guest.
When I read yesterday’s morning edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun, the first thing I thought of was this anecdote. According to a story, a rediscovered diary of Yukawa’s disclosed that he was involved in atomic bomb research at Kyoto University, then called Kyoto Imperial University, immediately before the end of World War II. Yukawa’s involvement in the research had been rumored, but what is the reason for the doctor never telling others about this for the rest of his life?
The year after he went to the United States, Yukawa became the first Japanese to receive a Nobel prize. The news was a new glimmer of hope for the Japanese people, who had lost confidence after being defeated in the war. It is not hard to imagine that it could have caused quite a stir if he disclosed his past.
At the time of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the doctor read a tanka poem.
“It would be meaningless to enjoy the refreshing sensation of clear air on a long autumn night after the human race was wiped from the Earth”