Giants in History: Hideki Yukawa

The first Japanese Nobel laureate 

Hideki Yukawa (23 January 1907 - 08 September 1981)


Hideki Yukawa (23 January 1907 – 8 September 1981) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949 for predicting the existence of the pi meson subatomic particle. Japan’s first Nobel laureate, Yakawa also expressed his support for nuclear disarmament by signing the Russell–Einstein Manifesto in 1955.

Despite his talent in mathematics, Yukawa decided against becoming a mathematician after he proved a theorem on a high school exam in a way his teacher wasn’t expecting and the teacher marked the answer as incorrect. Yukawa also turned his back on a career as an experimental physicist because he could not master glassblowing - a skill required for spectroscopy experiments at the time. After graduating from Kyoto Imperial University, Yukawa became interested in theoretical physics, particularly the theory of subatomic particles. His theory on mesons, published in 1935, explained the interaction between protons and neutrons. Yukawa’s prediction of the existence of the pi meson was confirmed in 1947 when physicists Cecil Frank Powell, Giuseppe Occhialini and César Lattes discovered the particle.

Kyoto Imperial University
Academic disciplines: 
Nobel Prize in Physics