200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 64: “From the Academy to Japan and Back Again ”

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photo of malacology exhibit in Japan
One of the displays from the exhibit in Tatsuno, Japan: Portraits of Hirase Yoichiro and  Henry Augustus Pilsbry are shown in the center left and center, respectively.

From the Academy to Japan and Back Again

Oue Uichi (1865–1941) was an avid amateur naturalist who lived near Kobe in western Japan. Restricted by poverty to only two years of formal elementary school, he nevertheless became a self-educated intellectual who collected and studied plants, fungi, insects, and mollusks. In the late 1890s, Oue sent some snails he had collected to the shell dealer Hirase Yoichiro in Kyoto. Hirase sent the shells on to the Academy’s legendary malacologist Henry Pilsbry, who recognized at least one of them to be a new species and named it Parakaliella harimensis in 1901. Pilsbry described 17 additional species based in part on material Oue collected.

From July to September 2011, the Tatsuno City Culture Center in Oue’s hometown of Tatsuno presented a special exhibition of his life and work. At the Cultural Center’s request the Academy provided numerous specimens collected by Oue, still in pristine condition after more than 100 years. This exchange allowed specimens gathered in Japan and named and preserved at the Academy to become educational material for Japanese students, community members, and researchers. The exchange demonstrates the importance of scientific collections like those preserved at the Academy and other natural history museums.

Learn more about how the Academy exchanges knowledge with natural science institutions in Japan.

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