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Living History
A century-old device connects a Japanese family with FIS and Germany
Nori and Takanori Ito pose with the last remaining Barkhausen- Kurz tube oscillator in Munich (above); Photo of the device (below) courtesy of Deutsches Museum
FIS alumna Miho Ito-Ota, 1987, recently visited FIS with her mother and two daughters to see the much changed campus and to meet with John Poole, her
former math teacher. They reminisced about a math class trip to Vienna during Miho’s senior year.
Miho’s brother, Nori, and his family live in
Frankfurt and her nephew, Takanori, is a
current student at FIS.
But along with visiting family and her alma mater, Miho had another reason to travel to Germany – to attend a ceremony celebrating a scienti c discovery and a century-long friendship between Japan and Germany.
As it turns out, the Ito family’s connection to Germany reaches beyond two generations attending FIS, with Miho’s grandfather – and Takanori’s great-grandfather – Mr. Yoji Ito, having studied in Germany in the 1920s.
Mr. Yoji Ito  rst came to Germany in 1926 for graduate studies in electrical engineering at the Dresden Technische Hochschule. He was a student of Heinrich Barkhausen, a famous German physicist who alongside Karl Kurz, discovered electromagnetic waves in the range of several hundred megahertz. Based on this discovery, Barkhausen and Kurz invented the Barkhausen-Kurz oscillator, the  rst vacuum tube electronic oscillator to use electron transit- time e ects. Its ability to operate at ultrahigh frequency
laid the groundwork for the development of microwave transit-tubes, which were used in some of the  rst applications of microwaves and in early radar systems.
Mr. Yoji Ito completed his doctorate in Engineering in Dresden in 1929 and returned to Japan as a researcher at the Naval Technology Research Institute in Tokyo. Despite the distance, he and Barkhausen remained in contact, with Barkhausen travelling to Japan in 1938 to visit his friend.
“This is an icon of technology. It will stay at the museum forever – as a symbol of the friendship between Japan and Germany.”
Wolfgang Heckl General Director of the Deutsches Museum, Munich
Several years later, Mr. Yoji Ito visited Germany, and Barkhausen gave him an Barkhausen-Kurz oscillator as a gift; Mr. Yoji Ito would later learn that all other Barkhausen- Kurz oscillators had been destroyed during the Dresden bombings in 1945. Without Barkhausen’s gift to him, there would have been no surviving Barkhausen-Kurz tube oscillator.
In the 1960’s, Mr. Yoji Ito’s son, Mitsumasa Ito, followed in his father’s footsteps and came to Germany to study at the Technische Universität Berlin. Only intending to stay for three years, Mitsumasa lived in Germany for more than 20, along the way welcoming two children, Miho and Nori, into his family.
In November 2016 – almost a century after the discovery of the Barkhausen-Kurz tube oscillator – three generations of the Ito family met in Germany to donate the sole surviving device to the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Alongside the General Director
of the Deutsches Museum, Wolfgang Heckl, and the Japanese Consul, the Ito family presented the Barkhausen- Kurz tube oscillator in the ceremonial hall of the Deutsches Museum.
As Mr. Heckl said in his speech: “This is an icon of technology. It will stay at the museum forever – as a symbol of the friendship between Japan and Germany.”
Julia Vanderpool
Alumni Relations Manager
February 2017 FIS World 19

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