Prizes & Awards

Prof. Emeritus Yasuo Tanaka designated as a Person of Cultural Merit 2010

  • K. Makishima (Professor, Department of Physics)
Figure 1

Prof. Emeritus Yasuo Tanaka

Yasuo Tanaka (Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, Graduate School of Science, the University of Tokyo and Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science) was designated as a Person of Cultural Merit 2010 by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. After graduating from the Department of Physics, School of Science of Osaka University in 1953, Professor Tanaka served as an assistant at the former Center for Nuclear Study, the University of Tokyo and as an associate professor at the School of Science of Nagoya University. He then became a professor at the former Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, the University of Tokyo, which was reorganized later as the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). Professor Tanaka devoted himself to graduate school education as an interdisciplinary visiting professor at the University of Tokyo. After he retired from ISAS in 1994, he moved to Germany as a visiting scientist at the Max-Planck Institute and he also served as director of the Bonn Research Liaison Center of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) until 2008.

As an experiment specialist in physics, Prof. Tanaka first exerted his unsurpassed skills in cosmic ray physics. He then immersed himself deeply in the field of X-ray astronomy that had risen in the 1960s, and conducted a number of pioneering studies, including exploration of the soft X-ray sky in collaboration with Dutch groups, the development of gas scintillation proportional counters for the “Tenma” satellite and their use in the iron emission-line spectroscopy, the X-ray detection of Supernova SN1987A with the succeeding “Ginga,” and the verification of relativistic effects from black holes with the revolutionary “ASCA” mission. Through these leading activities, he fostered the development of Japan's corresponding research fields. In addition, he has promoted international collaboration from the wide-ranging perspective, as exemplified by his role as the project manager on these successful scientific satellites.

Prof. Tanaka is still engaged in analysis of the latest satellite data, and his attitude towards the research is encouraging and inspiring to younger researchers. He has received various awards, such as the Nishina Memorial Prize, Japan Academy Prize, Bruno Rossi Prize in the USA, and Massey Award from the Royal Society. Last year he was awarded the Foreign Minister's Commendation thanks to his contribution to academic exchange between Japan and Germany.

I extend my sincere congratulations to Professor Emeritus Tanaka on his designation.