Known by it's Japanese acronym RIKEN, Rikagaku Kenkyusho (理化 研究所 The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) was first founded in 1917 as a private research foundation by Eiichi Shibusawa (representing the founders) in the Komagome area of Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, with an imperial donation, governmental subsidies, and private contributions. During this period vitamin A is first extracted from cod-liver oil for production (1924), Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac visit RIKEN (1930), and Nishina Laboratory begins measurement of cosmic rays inside the Shimizu Tunnel. At the end of World War II the RIKEN research foundation was dissolved by order of the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers. It was then reorganized as the Scientific Research Institute Ltd. (or Kagaku Kenkyusho) and operated as KAKEN until 1958. During this period Yoshio Nishina was president of KAKEN, Penicillin was first successfully manufactured as commercial product in Japan, and researcher Hideki Yukawa (湯川 秀樹) was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1958 it was reorganaized as a public corporation, RIKEN, under the jurisdiction of the Science and Technology Agency (under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology).

After the reorganization, another RIKEN researcher, Dr. Shinichiro Tomonaga (朝永 振一郎), was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics (1965). Since then it has engaged in wide-ranging research activities that span basic to applied science in its facilities all over Japan, including its main campus in Wako, Saitama, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Chilton, DIDCOT, Oxon, UK and the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. In 2001 RIKEN had a budget of 69 billion yen for sciences (with 11 billion for personnel and administration) not limited to nuclear and atomic science, life science, neurology, genetics and genomic sciences, developmental biology, SNP research, allergy and immunology.

Presidents of the Institute

  1. Haruo Nakaoka 長岡 治男 (October 1958 - October 1966)
  2. Shiro Akabori 赤堀 四郎 (December 1966 - April 1970)
  3. Toshio Hoshino 星野 敏雄 (April 1970 - April 1975)
  4. Shinji Fukui 福井 伸二 (April 1975 - April 1980)
  5. Tatsuoki Miyajima 宮島 龍興 (April 1980 - April 1988)
  6. Minoru Oda 小田 (April 1988 - September 1993)
  7. Akito Arima 有馬 朗人 (October 1993 - June 1998)
  8. Shun-ichi Kobayashi 小林 俊一 (August 1998 - present)

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