There are many kinds of scientists in the world and while some work in fields that regularly get the spotlight, there are those that do important work and yet do not really get as much popularity that they deserve. Shintaro Hirase happens to be one of those people and while he isn’t as well-known as other scientists, his works and research as a malacologist are very exciting and contribute a lot to the study of shells and molluscs. His works are used in dozens of research projects even until today and his collections happen to be a marvel as well though there aren’t really much of them left given to the war and the bombings that did away with a lot of Japan’s buildings and other notable works.
The Early Life of Shintaro Hirase
Shintaro Hirase had an early start in the field of malacology (a branch of zoology that places focus on the study of molluscs) because he grew up under the influence of another very well-known malacologist and that was his father, Yoichiro Hirase. Shintaro was born on February 24, 1884 and as mentioned, he was under the influence of his father so it can be said that his foray into the field of zoology and his study of malacology was something he inherited from his father who was very enthusiastic about his job and his interest in malacology.
Aside from formal schooling, he had his father to help drive his interest and this is why together, the two managed to form an extensive collection of seashells that were found along Japanese islands and other islands that were near Japan. It has been said often enough that the collection formed by the two is some of the best to be found anywhere although today, only about 30% of the extensive collection is left.
Today, only about 5000 specimens are left and the reason for the demise of the majority of the collection was because of the bombing in Tokyo. It was the incendiary bombs dropped by US troops that ruined most of the collection. What happened was they dropped the bombs the house of Shintaro Hirase and some bombs were also dropped in the Research Institute for Natural resources during the bombing of Tokyo. The collection was housed in the institute in the year 1948 and was comprised of Shintaro’s own collection and that of his father’s. a great deal was lost to them and to Japan that day but it has to be said that the remaining 30% still inspires awe in people and really show how dedicated they were to their craft.
While he spent a lot of his time and most of his life building the collection, that wasn’t all be was known to do since he also published several works that prove to be quite valuable in the study of shells and mollusc that were found in Japan. These works are so profound that even until today, they are still in use and in print. One of his works, the Jap J Zool was based on the review of Japanese oysters and was published in 1932. In this work, he talked about the breeding of Japanese oysters and went in-depth about their anatomic qualities.
His other published work, a review of scaphopods was published in the Journal of Choncology. Another work he published was on the study of Japanese shells and this book happens to be one of the most interesting to read and to look at since it included pictures of Japanese shells in their natural colours. All his works were praised to the highest degree and copies can be obtained up until today.
While a majority of his earlier years were spend doing research on shells, collecting shells and writing, his later years were spend teaching because he took a job at Seikei college in Japan where he taught about the subjects that were near and dear to his heart. He taught zoology for several years in the university but also did some research on the side.
Shintaro Hirase died in 1939 and had an obituary published in the Macological Society of London and in it, they gave a great review of his life and his accomplishments. In it, they touched not only upon his works and his accomplishments but also gave an insight as to what he was as a person. In it, they talked about his career as a teacher of zoology in Seikei college and also how enthusiastic he was about his work. They also made mention of how he was devoted to his work and had no political interests at all. It is interesting to note that his lack of political interest was a sign that the bombs dropped in his house were non-intentional and were purely by chance.
It goes without saying that Shintaro Hirase, just like his father, was truly dedicated to his work and was really an academic. It takes no small amount of devotion to come up with the collection and the works that he did and still be able to teach if he wasn’t really into his craft. A quick glimpse of his books will show you how much he enjoyed his occupation and his love of the subject. To him, it wasn’t just something to pass the time but it was what he loved to do.
His books and collection are not only interesting to see but they have also been used in other studies especially when it comes to studies done on conservation and breeding. Indeed, he had a huge impact in the study of malacology and zoology and it is very refreshing to know that he passed on his knowledge and enthusiasm to his students. There are no reports whether or not the devastated collection was ever replaced or if a new collection was started but even if they did replace it with newer specimens, the ones left over from the original collection were of great value and were surely retained.