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Kenjiro Takayanagi

The Father of Television from Hamamatsu

Kenjiro Takayanagi

Said to be weak and no good at study during his childhood, nevertheless he was active and a leader in the technological development of Japanese television. His favorite phrase was “Tenbun ni ikiru” which means to make the most of one’s ability by living for others.

Place of origin:Wada village in Hamana county

We cannot do without television in our lives. In the Taisho Era many scientists competed by dreaming of and researching the development of television. On one such occasion the first successful electronic television experiment resulted. The letter [イ] (i) was clearly projected on a Brawn tube (CRT). That day December 25, 1926 was also the day that Emperor Taisho died. The birth of electronic television became a symbol of the start of the new Showa Era. The scientist at the forefront who succeeded in creating electronic television was Kenjiro Takayanagi. He is called the Father of Television.

Inspired by a cartoon, he decided to research television.

Kenjiro Takayanagi was born in Wada village in Hamana county (today Hamamatsu City) in 1899. He was physically weak, and poor at both sports and study in his childhood, but liked to learn about the mechanism of machinery. Before long, with the aim of becoming a teacher, he went on to Shizuoka Normal School (now the Department of Education at Shizuoka University). Because he had a strong interest in physics, especially in the emission of fluorescence by electrons, he went on to Tokyo Higher Technical College (now the Tokyo Institute of Technology). He was deeply impressed by the dean’s words, “Aim at the technology which will be necessary for Japan in ten or twenty years, even if it is not understood by anybody now.” Immediately he began to look for a good subject of research.
To begin with he studied French and German to grasp the situation abroad and randomly read American, British, French and German technical journals related to electricity and science. One day when he stood reading a French magazine in a bookstore he found a cartoon titled “Future Television”. Though it was merely imaginary he was so excited by this idea that he called it the “wireless far-sight method.” He thought, “If radio-broadcasting can transmit sound wirelessly, an image should be able to be sent Kenjiro in the same way”. Kenjiro leapt at the idea of television shown in the cartoon. At the same time he felt frustrated. He thought, “Scientists in Europe may already be starting research. I have no time to waste!” He decided to tackle television research. This was in 1923.

The letter「イ」clearly displayed on a TV screen

The next year in 1924 he left Tokyo to work at newly established Hamamatsu Higher Technical College (now the Faculty of Technology at Shizuoka University) as an associtate professor. When the president of the college asked him what he wanted to research, he clearly said, “Television(he used 'wireless far-sight method' instead of television at that time). I would like to research this technology so that at home in Hamamatsu we can see Kabuki being performed in Tokyo.” Even radio broadcasting had not gained popularity yet, so of course television technology was unthinkable to ordinary people.
The president was surprised at his research subject, but he indicated his understanding of his ideas and approved the research project. Supported by the attitudes of a school which encouraged creative research work, Takayanagi became seriously absorbed in carrying out research on television.
He began to work, but his research was unsuccessful and finally his laboratory was closed. Kenjiro did not give up. Running out of research money, he even bought vacuum tubes with his new wife’s dowry. He continued his work, making equipment by hand when necessary. Finally he succeeded to display the letter [イ] on the Brawn tube using a Nipkow Disc as an imaging apparatus. This experiment was right at the forefront of electronic television research.

Mr. Takayanagi met with success in displaying the letter [イ]

The letter [イ] was written on a mica plate in India ink, and another image of the letter [イ] passed through the Nipkow disk and appeared on the cathode-ray tube.
Paul Nipkow (German) devised the scanning system that changed the light which passed through the disk hole into an electrical signal at the photo electric cell.

A leader of technical development of TV

On the occasion of performing the [イ] image experiment with a cathode-ray tube in the presence of the Emperor, their budget and personnel were strengthened and a project team to advance TV research and development was organized.
Team members expressed their views to each other about their studies or reports and also individual members gathered their power for full research. As a result, in 1935 they completed the perfect electrical TV by adopting the Iconoscope imaging method.

Basking in the approval of the Emperor

The sender machinery and images on the receiver machinery devised at Hamamatsu Higher Technical acallege (now the Faculty of Engineering of Shizuoka University) were inspected in the presence of the Emperor.

photo:Basking in the approval of the Emperor

Soon after, the great prospect of TV swept throughout the nation, and the idea of broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics Games, which were going to be held in 1940, became a national project.
Although Takayanagi had already completed the full electrical TV of 441 scan lines and 25 fps(frame per second), which were very close to current TV standards, he was forced to call off his research because of the outbreak of World War II.

TV broadcasting vehicles

The Takayanagi group joined NHK Institute of Technology together with TV broadcasting vehicles.

photo:TV broadcasting vehicles

After the war, Kenjiro began to work at “Japan Victor Corporation” and restarted his research of TV. He strived to make progress with technical innovations of TV system and improve the practicality of TV broadcasting. In 1953, he also assisted the realization of actual TV broadcasting.
....In 1960, color television broadcasting started and Kenjiro continued to play an active role as a leader of the development of television industry in Japan and engineering during this period.

Moreover, by inventing a 2-head type video tape recorder in 1959, he greatly contributed to the worldwide use of home video recorders and development of VTR industry. With this achievement, in 1981, he received the Order of Cultural Merit. In 1988, he was selected as the first Japanese honorary member of the American SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) and furthermore, in 1989, he was given the First Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Takayanagi Kenjiro laid the foundations for Japanese television technology and continued to support development of the television industry. Later, he threw his energy into human resource training and development. He said from his own experience, “Have foresight and work steadily. Science and technology is no longer developed by only one genius, but we can expect great success by doing step-by-step research through group discussion.” In his later years, he did research on picture improvement of color television. His passion for television never cooled. He passed away at the age of 91 in 1990.

Terebi No Hajime (Beginning of Television) published by Hamamatsu Denshi Kogaku Shoreikai (Hamamatsu Promotion Foundation for Electronics)
Hamamatsu Monozukuri Jinbutsuden (Biography of Great Manufacturers from Hamamatsu) published by Hamamatsu City Board of Education
Hamamatsu Hyakusen (100 Selections of Hamamatsu) published in February 2003