Michiyo Tsujimura was a groundbreaking Japanese biochemist known for her pioneering research on green tea and its nutritional components. She was a significant figure in the field of agriculture and made notable contributions to the understanding of green tea’s chemical composition. Here’s a summary of her life and achievements:
- Early Life and Education: Michiyo Tsujimura was born on September 17, 1888, in the Saitama prefecture of Honshu, Japan. She showed an early interest in scientific research.
- Educational Journey: Tsujimura began her career as an assistant teacher at Jinjo Higher Elementary School and later studied under Kono Yasui at the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School. It was during this time that she developed a strong interest in scientific research.
- Research on Green Tea: Tsujimura’s groundbreaking work focused on green tea. She identified various components of green tea, including vitamin C. Her discoveries played a crucial role in increasing the export of green tea from Japan to North America. Green tea subsequently became one of the fastest-growing exports to the United States.
- Catechin and Tannin Discoveries: Tsujimura’s research also led to the discovery of the components responsible for the bitter taste of green tea, namely catechin and tannin.
- Research Institutions: She worked as an unpaid assistant in the food nutritional laboratory of the agricultural chemistry department of Hokkaido Imperial University, which did not admit female students at the time. Later, she became a researcher at the same university. Tsujimura continued her research at the Riken research institution, where she identified vitamin C in green tea. In 1929, she became the first person to successfully isolate and extract catechin, a significant compound in tea.
- Academic Achievements: Tsujimura’s research was documented in a paper titled “On the Chemical Components of Green Tea,” which earned her a doctorate in agriculture from Tokyo Imperial University in 1932. This achievement made her the first woman in Japan to hold a doctorate in agriculture.
- Academic Career: In 1949, Tsujimura became a professor at Ochanomizu University, where she also served as the first dean of the Faculty of Home Economics. She continued to make valuable contributions to education, including teaching at Tokyo’s Jissen Women’s University.
- Legacy: Michiyo Tsujimura’s contributions to the fields of agriculture and biochemistry were significant. Following her passing, a memorial stele was erected in Toyohashi, where she spent her final years, in her honor by the Katsurakai organization.
Michiyo Tsujimura’s pioneering research not only advanced our understanding of green tea but also broke barriers for women in academia, making her a trailblazing figure in the field of agriculture and biochemistry in Japan.