Mention car batteries and it’s not surprising that many people think of the two letters “GS”. The initials “GS” in GS Yuasa batteries, famous even today, actually stand for Genzo Shimadzu. 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the registration of this trademark.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Umejiro Shimadzu, later Genzo Shimadzu Jr., is the forefather of modern industry in Kyoto. He was a genius at invention, has been called Japan’s Edison, and is admired as a scientist and engineer even today. What initially inspired this genius at invention was a casual comment by his father, Genzo Shimadzu Sr. When Genzo Jr. was small, the equipment brought one after another to Shimadzu for repairs was all foreign made. The boy Umejiro asked his father, “Why can’t Japanese make machinery like this?” “It’s not that we can’t make them, it’s that we have no one that has studied manufacturing equipment.” This reply inspired the young boy. Because he had been recruited to help with the family business, he had only attended two years of school.
Instead of a formal education, he studied on his own with French physics texts that he borrowed from his father. Needless to say, he could not read any French. Using only the illustrations and diagrams as a reference however, he managed to recreate the machines, with screws, pulleys, shafts, and handles exactly as shown in the science text. This pleased his father, and surprised everyone around him. Though Genzo registered 178 patents during his lifetime, perhaps the most representative was a method for manufacturing reactive lead powder, a material used for manufacturing storage batteries.