Ukichiro Nakaya


Ukichiro Nakaya Today July 4, 2013 Google Japan is celebrating the life and legacy of Ukichiro Nakaya. He was a Japanese physicist and science essayist known for his work in glaciology and low-temperature sciences. Ukichiro Nakaya is credited with making the first artificial snowflakes. He was born on July 4, 1900 in Kaga, Ishikawa Japan and Died on April 11, 1962.

Ukichiro Nakaya

Ukichiro Nakaya was inspired to study physics in high school by the nebular hypotheses of Kant and Laplace and by the works of Hajime Tanabe. He majored in experimental physics under Torahiko Terada at Tokyo Imperial University and graduated in 1925. Soon thereafter, he became Terada’s research assistant at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN).

 Ukichiro Nakaya studied electrostatic discharge as an assistant professor at Tokyo Imperial University. In 1928 and 1929, he continued his graduate studies at King’s College London under Owen Willans Richardson,[1] where he worked with long-wavelength X-rays. In 1930, he became an assistant professor at Hokkaido University, with which he would be associated for the rest of his life, and later that year he received his doctor of science degree from Kyoto Imperial University. From 1933, Ukichiro Nakaya observed natural snow and created 3,000 photographic plates of snow crystals, classifying them into seven major and numerous minor types. In the course of these observations, taking photographs of natural snow and sorting them by appearance according to weather conditions, Ukichiro Nakaya felt the need to make artificial snow from ice crystals grown in the laboratory. He generated water vapor in a dual-layer hollow glass tube, which was then cooled. Contrary to his initial expectations, creating snow crystals was not an easy task – instead of forming into snowflakes, the ice crystals grew like caterpillars on the cotton string he used for nucleation

The Low Temperature Science Laboratory opened in 1935, and experiments continued with various materials for the ice nucleus. These experiments revealed that woolen string is better than cotton string; however, the snow crystals were still not forming as intended. One day Ukichiro Nakaya found a snow crystal on the tip of a hair of a rabbit-fur coat in the lab. This was the breakthrough that led to the production of the first artificial snow crystal. On March 12, 1936, three years after the first attempt, he produced a snow crystal on the tip of a single hair of rabbit fur in his laboratory apparatus. In December 1937, he took photographs of many types of artificial snow crystals in his lab. These photographs were influenced by Wilson Bentley’s 1931 book Snow Crystals, which he admired greatly.