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13th Nichi-Doku Joint Lecture: “Canaries and Machines: Security in Collieries, Cities, and the Atmosphere”

17. Jan 2019 18:00 Uhr bis 20:00 Uhr
Veranstalter: Kyoto University European Center, Heidelberg University Office, Kyoto
Hörsaal 15, Neue Universität Universitätsplatz 1, Heidelberg


Speaker: Prof. Akihisa Setoguchi (Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University)



This presentation will argue how technology is building up our current air environment. The air monitoring technology has its origin in collieries, which experienced massive explosions with hundreds of victims in the nineteenth century. Modern Japan, which excavated coal to build its industries, was no exception. Technologies to prevent explosions began to be developed in the 1930s, when methane gas detectors and canaries were introduced in coal mines. In the 1970s, an automatic monitoring system was established. Although most coal mines have declined in Japan, this monitoring system is now widespread in the current technological society. Japanese cities experienced large explosive accidents in the 1970s. As a result, residential gas detectors became popular in the 1980s. Air pollution from the combustion of coal and oil became serious in the 1950s. The atmosphere over Japanese cities is still monitored with the automatic machines, which was established in the 1970s.  This presentation will situate air monitoring technologies in the history of human-made-atmosphere and will demonstrate how machines, animals, and humans are involved in the large technological system that maintains our everyday lives.

A commentary to the lecture will be provided by Dr Denis Pöhler (Air Quality Measurement Technology (AQMTec), Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University).

More information available here.


About the lecturer

Akihisa Setoguchi has been interested in history of biological sciences, environmental history and human-animal relationships in Japan. His main work focuses on the history of harmful insects in Japan, published as Gaichū no tanjō (The Birth of Insect Pests) in 2009. In his recent research Prof. Setoguchi explores the history of concepts of nature from a perspective of technological science and related philosophies.


About the commentator

Dr. Pöhler studied physics at University of Würzburg and Edinburgh (Scotland). He works at the Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University, since 2014, where he contributed to numerous studies concerning on nitrogen oxide air pollution in cities. In addition, he was active in developing mobile emission measurement devices to uncover defect or manipulated exhaust emission purification systems. From 2016 to 2018, Dr. Pöhler served as the leading researcher of the AQMTec project. This project’s objective was to commercialize the ICAD measurement method, a  system Dr. Pöhler which he helped to develop. This project was funded by the Federal Agency for Economy and Energy as well as the EU. Dr. Pöhlers project and his expertise was also widely recognized by the media in Germany and the European Union.


About the Nichi-Doku Joint Lecture

The “Nichi-Doku Joint Lecture” (Japanese-German Joint Lecture) is organized in close cooperation between the Kyoto University European Center in Heidelberg and the Heidelberg University Office, Kyoto (HUOK) — the liaison offices of both universities in Japan and Germany. It aims at promoting and strengthening research exchange between Heidelberg University and Kyoto University.


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