Shigehisa Iwai


Shigehisa Iwai

Distinguished Pioneer

Professional background

Shigehisa Iwai (1916-1996) was and remains a legendary figure in Japan’s water development history. He received his doctoral degree in Civil Engineering from Kyoto University.  He was appointed Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Kyoto University in 1941.  After the war’s end, during which he was interned as a POW, he returned to Kyoto University as a full Professor in 1948.

In 1958, Professor Iwai was asked to organize the Department of Sanitary Engineering at Kyoto University, following two years of study at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Public Health (1951-52). He opened many programs, such as water pollution control, water supply and sewage works, night soil treatment, industrial wastewater treatment, municipal and industrial solid waste management. He retired from Kyoto University as Professor Emeritus in 1979.

Professor Iwai served as an advisor to many countries during his professional career and helped UNESCO in establishing a Sanitary Engineering program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.  He was decorated for his service by being invested into the Senior Fourth Rank of the Court after his death by the Japanese Government.

Major contributions to IWA

Professor Iwai was one of 15 founding fathers of IAWPR. He participated in the first IAWPR Congress in 1962 in London, where he described the Minamata Disease and its causative agent, organic mercury.  He proposed a second IAWPR Congress in Tokyo in 1964, supported by Professor Wes Eckenfelder.  This highly successful congress, held in the midst of an historic water supply shortage in Tokyo, helped the formal launch of IAWPR in 1965.

Professor Iwai was editor of Water Research until 1982.  He served as Japan’s Governing Board member from the 1st to 8th IAWPR Congress in 1974.

Author:  Saburo Matsui, Japan

Contributor: Paul Reiter