Shozo Motoyama (1940-2021)

George Grosz, Metropolis (Grossstadt), 1917


Commentary on the intellectual trajectory of the recently deceased scientist and historian.

On January 26, 2021, the scientific and academic community, USP and Brazilian, lost one of its most recognized members, Professor Shozo Motoyama. Born on January 5, 1940, Shozo Motoyama was a descendant of Japanese immigrants from the interior of São Paulo. He graduated in Physics in 1967 and received his PhD in Sciences in 1971 with a thesis on logic in Galileo Galilei, under the guidance of Professor Eurípedes Simões de Paula, at the then Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters at USP, where he embraced the History as craft and profession.

From 1969 onwards, Shozo Motoyama was, for four decades, one of the most active professors in the Department of History at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH), where he defended his thesis of Habilitation in 1976, became professor holder of History of Science in 1999 and retired in 2009. After retiring, he continued to work intensely in the academic and university environment, contributing tirelessly to postgraduate guidance, teaching and scientific production, with more than 20 master's dissertations and 30 doctoral theses carried out under his guidance at the Social History Program at FFLCH. He was currently senior faculty in the Department of History.

The USP reform (1968) dismembered the former Faculty of Sciences and Letters into different institutes and added related areas to the current FFLCH. In that context, the History course, which had renowned professors such as Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Eduardo D'Oliveira França, Emilia Viotti da Costa and Eurípedes Simões de Paula himself, was transformed into a Department of History and received two important new fields: the History of Science and History of Art – the latter would soon be attached to a new institute, the School of Communications and Arts (ECA).

For the History of Science, FFLCH brought in two new professors, one of them from the Institute of Physics, Shozo Motoyama. For Professor Raquel Glezer, a colleague and friend of Professor Shozo at DH, “Shozo's presence and his work transformed the field of History of Science into an interdisciplinary nucleus that brought together professors from almost all of USP's institutes and faculties, thus contributing to the advancement of the inter-institutional relations of the Department of History and of the FFLCH itself”. In this way, emphasizes Professor Glezer, “the area of ​​History of Science began to attract both students to the graduate training process and professors interested in the history of their own field”, allowing for the expansion and consolidation of reflections on the relationship between the Theory of History and History of Science.

Shozo Motyama also acted as a trainer of academic staff in History of Knowledge and Theory of History, having guided a large number of researchers at the master's and doctoral level at USP, and being responsible for opening a new area of ​​research and action: History of Science and Technology in Brazil, today consolidated and strengthened within the scope of the most diverse societies and associations of History and Science.

Among the important contributions that Shozo Motoyama bequeathed to USP is the Interunit Center for the History of Science (CHC –, founded by him in 1988 and directed until his retirement in 2009. Headquartered in the Geography and History building of the FFLCH (Butantã campus), the CHC welcomes and brings together professors and researchers in the areas of Philosophy, Physics, Astronomy, Engineering, Biology, among so many others. Preserves relevant personal and institutional archives for the study of the History of Science and Technology in Brazil.

Nationally, his performance was fundamental for the creation of the Brazilian Society for the History of Science (SBHC), in 1983. Internationally, he was a guest researcher several times, with emphasis on Japanese institutions such as the Science and Engineering Laboratory of Waseda University and Cosmic Ray Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, in addition to being responsible for numerous collaborations through agreements and protocols.

Shozo Motoyama was also an important presence in Brazil-Japan relations, having served as a member of the board of the Center for Japanese-Brazilian Studies since 1966 and president between 2004 and 2019. He was also director of the Historical Museum of Japanese Immigration in Brazil during the years 1991 -1997 and 2008-2009. He was a titular member of chair nº 15 of the Academia Paulista de História.

He dedicated himself to the history of Japanese immigration in Brazil, with publications focused on the subject, such as the book Under the sign of the rising sun, 2011, which deals with the theme before the Second World War, and in 2016, in collaboration with journalist Jorge Okubaro, From conflict to integration – a history of Japanese immigration to Brazill, which covers the period from 1941 to 2008. Both publications were the result of his dedication to the Association for Commemoration of the Centenary of Japanese Immigration in Brazil and to the Brazil-Japan Institute of Cultural and Social Integration.

He published a large volume of works, books and articles throughout his career, among which those dedicated to the history of USP, CNPq and Fapesp stand out: For a history of FAPESP – documentary landmarks, 1999; 50 years of CNPq told by its presidents, 2002; Building the future – 35 years of graduate studies at USP, 2004; USP 70 years – images of a lived history, 2006; FAPESP 50 years: half a century of science, 2015, to name just a few.

He organized several collective works, among them the very important History of science in Brazil, in three volumes, in partnership with Mario Ferri, published between 1979 and 1981. He also participated in works on the history of Fuvest and the history of the Polytechnic School with Marilda Nagamini, a partner in many works.

In sad times like the one we live in, with the multiplication of obscurantist and denialist attacks on science, which do not cease to appall us, the memory and legacy of Shozo Motoyama need to be disseminated and cultivated. His life dedicated to teaching, knowledge and the public university are a great stimulus and inspiration to the new generations of researchers who enter Brazil's universities. Science in Brazil has changed under the critical and investigative eye of Shozo Motoyama.

Thank you very much, Professor Shozo.

* Ana Paula Torres Megiani, is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Brazil in the Hispanic Monarchy (1580-1668) (Humanites).

Originally published on Journal of USP .


See this link for all articles