The wheat geneticist who discovered X and Y
Hitoshi Kihara ( 1893 - 1986)
Hitoshi Kihara (1893 – 1986) was one of the most famous Japanese geneticists of the 20th century. After graduating from Hokkaido Imperial University, he spent much of his life researching wheat genetics at Kyoto University, the National Institute of Genetics and the Kihara Institute for Biological Research. One of his most significant contributions was identifying sex chromosomes (X and Y) in flowering plants. He also determined the minimum number of chromosomes with all genes essential for wheat to be viable versus fully fertile. Proposing the concept of a genome was another of Kihara’s notable achievements. Using his expertise in chromosomes and genome analysis, he identified the ancestors of cultivated wheat and bred the seedless watermelon. In 1946, Kihara wrote: "The history of the earth is recorded in the layers of its crust; the History of all organisms is inscribed in the chromosomes." The Kihara prize, named in his honour, is awarded by the Genetics Society of Japan to researchers for major contributions to the field. Besides being an energetic scientist, Kihara was an accomplished athlete. He was one of the first skiers in Japan, and led the Japanese Olympic ski team in 1960 and 1964.