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Takeru Higuchi

Takeru HiguchiBorn: January 1, 1918, Santa Clara, California. Died: March 24, 1987, Columbia, Missouri.

Through Takeru Higuchi’s work in the field of physical pharmacy he gained the highest respect in the industry and much acclaim for the University of Kansas.

Born in California to Japanese immigrants in 1918, Higuchi was raised on a small farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry in 1939 and completed graduate and doctoral studies in physical and organic chemistry in 1943. He spent a year as a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin, and worked briefly as a research chemist for US Rubber in Akron, Ohio, before returning to the university to teach in its School of Pharmacy.

For the next 20 years Higuchi became known internationally in the field of physical pharmacy and won many academic accolades. By 1967, when Higuchi accepted a position at the University of Kansas, his peers already considered him something of a legend.

Higuchi’s research focused on how drugs are delivered to the body. His work made pharmaceuticals more effective in reaching their targets and with fewer side effects. He also developed a way for drugs to release into the body over a period of time. Throughout his career Higuchi published more than 300 articles about his research and acquired more than 50 patents.

KU attracted Higuchi to Lawrence by naming him a regents professor, the highest professorial position at the university. He had the opportunity to develop a nationally recognized pharmaceutical chemistry program. The university also promised to build a complex to facilitate pharmaceutical research and attract graduate students. Whatever the cost of these enticements, they paid off for the university. Thanks to Higuchi’s reputation, knowledge of science, mind for business, and his interpersonal skills, he created profitable partnerships between the school and private industry and attracted some of the nation’s top graduate students in pharmacy. One of Higuchi’s colleagues estimated that by the 1980s Higuchi had “trained more people in upper and middle management in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry than anyone else, and that one-third of the nation’s pharmacy school deans and department chairmen (were) former Higuchi students.” Kansas Business News honored Higuchi as its 1985 Executive of the Year for his impact on the Kansas economy. He was able to accomplish his vision making a connection between the “theoretical” drug research done at universities with the “practical” drug application done by industry. These types of partnerships yielded millions of dollars for KU.

The year before, Higuchi was also praised by 225 of his peers from the U.S., Europe, and Japan at a symposium held in Lawrence where he was lauded as the “father of physical pharmacy.”

Higuchi died in 1987 due to a heart condition. Three of his children followed their father into the medical science field. A Kansas Legislature resolution asserted, “Over the past 20 years, it is doubtful if anyone has contributed more than Dr. Takeru Higuchi did to heighten the international respect for and prestige of the University of Kansas.”

Entry: Higuchi, Takeru

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2011

Date Modified: December 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.