Minakata Kumagusu - Biography


Minakata was born in Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. In 1883, he moved to Tokyo, where he entered the preparatory school Kyōryū Gakkō. The headmaster of Kyōritsu, Takahashi Korekiyo, encouraged Minakata in his botanical studies, and stimulated his interest in the English language. The following year, Minakata passed the entrance exam to Tokyo University Preparatory School (Tokyo Daigaku Yobimon), counting among his classmates the novelist Natsume Sōseki.

At the end of 1886, Minakata set off to study in the United States. He arrived in San Francisco in January of the next year, and he studied there for about six months. He next went to Michigan State Agricultural College, where he was accepted, becoming the first Japanese to pass the entrance exam there. These were just the first steps, however, in Minakata's unusually adventurous studies in various parts of the world, which would eventually include Cuba, Haiti, what is now Panama, Venezula, and England, before returning to Japan.

In addition to his studies in slime moulds, Minakata was intensely interested in folklore, religion and natural history. He wrote several papers, including 51 monographs in Nature. He is famous for discovering many varieties of mycetozoa.

Minakata was also an epileptic, suffering from grand mal seizures. He was able to predict when he was about to have a seizure (as is common in epilepsy) due to a sense of déjà vu.

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