Greeting from the Honorary Advisor

Introduction to the Biohistory Research Hall

Tokindo S. OkadaA Concert hall for science
My enthusiastic love for classical music has endured for more than half a century, albeit my never having received any formal education in music and my total incapability of understanding complicated music scores. On the whole, music in the original form created by composers is unapproachable for the general public. The only opportunity for most people to appreciate the beauty of music is solely provided by performers.
Likewise, science is in principle, not readily accessible to people outside the scientific community. It is clear that performers are equally essential to present the wonder and beauty of science. However, such talent is much more difficult to find and their professional authority much less firmly established in our society, compared to their musical counterparts. Therefore, the idea of creating a place where people could enjoy “performances” of scientific research presented through talk, art, music and contemporary auditory and visual technologies, was conceived.
I recall a statement by Dr. Maxine Singer, the President of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, at a meeting held in Japan, that if there is a common world-wide culture, science is its name. This sentiment is the motivating force behind the creation of the Biohistory Research Hall(BRH); to promote such a culture which is easily accessible to the general public. My hope is that what a concert hall does for music, our Research Hall is doing for science.

Living organisms are full of wonder
Undoubtedly, biology provides one of the most suitable“repertoires”for performances at the BRH, having such immense sources of wonder. The individual phenomena of each organism, from bacteria to mammals, and the inherent beauty of each species are fascinating and awe-inspring. If we could only be given more opportunities to appreciate them, these natural wonders would no doubt give much joy to mankind.
At the BRH, one of our special interests, among many others, focuses on the“changes of organisms with a lapse of time.”These changes include the transformation of fertilized eggs into adults as well as those incurred during evolution over a vast span of time. Through the ongoing effort of scientists, the exciting tales of each living organism are being told in increasing detail. We refer to these historical tales as“biohistory.” This way, concepts utilizing such key words as evolution, ontogeny, biodiversity, DNA, genetic code etc., can be integrated into a single historical story. The topics of our research activities are closely linked to the categories of Developmental Biology and Systematic Biology (based on DNA studies) in modern biological sciences.

BRH campaign
The displays in the BRH are open to public throughout the year. Our quarterly magazine, Biohistory, tackles diverse topics dealing with various aspects of biohistory, and is illustrated with color photographs. Our activities are conducted in collaboration with a variety of like-minded people, not only scientists, but artists, musicians, and writers, among others. Ongoing experiments in our research laboratories may be observed by visitors during “laboratory tours.” We organize a “summer school” to allow children to become familiar with modern biology, i.e., how to isolate DNA. Last summer, we started a new course to provide adult amateur naturalists with an opportunity to try PCR techniques in taxonomic studies.
The BRH is, despite its modest scale, a wonderful challenge. We welcome you to enjoy science with us.

April 1997
Tokindo S. Okada

Profile

Director General of the Biohistory Research Hall (1993-2001) is a Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University and Vice-President of the International Union of Biological Sciences (1991-present). Specializing in developmental biology, he has served as President of the International Society of Developmental Biologists (1982-86), and has been awarded the Harrison Prize from the Society (1989). He was Director General of the National Institute of Basic Biology (1984-89), as well as President of Okazaki National Research Institutes (1989-91). In 1995, he received prestigious rank of "Person with Cultural Merit" from the Japanese Government.

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