Who was Michiyo Tsujimura, star of the latest Google Doodle?

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Tsujimura found high levels of vitamin C in green tea (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Tsujimura found high levels of vitamin C in green tea (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Tea scientist Michiyo Tsujimura was born in 1888 in Okegawa Japan. She became the first woman to get a PhHD in chemistry and agriculture, and did extensive research on the benefits of green tea. Today would be her 133rd birthday.

Being a female scientist was not an easy feat. Her career started as an unpaid laboratory assistant at Hokkaido Imperial University, when the university did even not accept female students.

She later moved to a medical chemistry laboratory at Tokyo Imperial University, in 1922, but her work and laboratory were decimated in the tragic Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, which killed more than 100,000 people.

Scientist and vitamin pioneer Umetaro Suzuki took Tsujimura under his wing and moved her to a laboratory at the Riken scientific research institute.

Tsujimura, with her colleague Seitaro Miura, found vitamin B1 and high levels of vitamin C in green tea. Her paper, On Vitamin C in Green Tea, made green tea popular in North America, and exports increased from Asia to the US.

Tsujimura made further explorations into the components of green tea. In 1929 she identified catechin and tannin, the ingredients that give tea its astringent taste. In 1930 she extracted tannin in its crystal form, and determined its chemical structure, writing about it in the paper On the Chemical Components of Green Tea, which earned her a second doctorate.

In 1949 she became a professor at Ochanomizu University. In 1950 she became the dean of the Faculty of Home Economics at Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School, and in 1956 she was awarded the Japan Prize of Agricultural Science.

Tsujimura passed away in 1969, at 81 years old, but a memorial in her memory can still be visited in Okegawa City.

The health benefits Tsujimura found in green tea have contributed to it being one of the most popular drinks in Japan. The country consumes around 81.7 thousand tonnes of green tea per year, according to Statista, and 15 per cent of all the tea consumed (some 84 billion gallons) in the US is green tea, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

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