The 13th Nichi-Doku Joint Lecture: “Canaries and Machines: Security in Collieries, Cities, and the Atmosphere” (Dr. Akihisa Setoguchi, Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University)


Lecturer: Dr. Akihisa Setoguchi
Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University


Commentator: Dr. Denis Pöhler
Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University


Date: 17 January 2019, 18:00–20:00

Venue: Neue Universität, Hörsaal 15, Heidelberg University

Address: Universitätsplatz 1, Heidelberg



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.


Event Report




Welcoming Address





Dr. Akihisa Setoguchi
Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University





Dr. Denis Pöhler
Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University

19:30 Discussion
19:45 Closing


Registration & Contact

Deadline: 8 January 2019

Please send us an e-mail containing your name and affiliated organization to the following address:

Kyoto University European Centre Heidelberg Office
Tel: +49-(0)6221-54-30034

The registration is not required, but we would be thankful if you did.


Dr. Akihisa Setoguchi (Associate Professor)

Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University

Akihisa Setoguchi has been interested in history of biological sciences, environmental history and human animal relationships in Japan. His main work is on history of harmful insects in Japan, published as Gaichū no tanjō (The Birth of Insect Pests) in 2009. Recently, he is trying to explore the history and philosophy of “nature” built up by technoscience.


Dr. Denis Pöhler
Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University

Dr. Pöhler studied physics at University of Würzburg and Edinburgh (Scottland). At the Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University, he contributed numerous studies concerning 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 leader of the AQMTec project, which goal it was to commercialize the ICAD measurement method, 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 requested by the media in Germany and the European Union.


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