Korea’s first female scientist who overcame institutional barriers through extraordinary passion for science
Published an excellent paper on Nature, the globally recognized science journal, in mid-1960s
Organized a mushroom research group and published a science book, "Korean Mushroom Illustration"
(Late) Professor Sam Soon Kim (1909~2001)
Honorary Professor, Seoul Women’s University
- Academic background
Graduated from ‘Seon’ Dept., Tokyo Girls Advanced Education School
B.S., Dept. of Botanical Science, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido Imperial University
Ph.D. in Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural Science, Kyushu University
- Professional career
Teacher, Jinmyeong/Gyeonggi Girls High School
Professor, College of Education, Seoul National University
Professor, Dept. of Food and Nutrition Science, Seoul Women’s University
First and Second President, Korea Mycology Society
Member, Honorary Member, National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences Award
Weolnam (Lee Sang Jae) Award
Proud Alumnus of Gyeonggi Girls High School
Professor Sam Soon Kim was the first female scientist in Korea and a renowned authority in mycology who oversaw the institutional and academic development of the Korean mycology with extraordinary passion for science.
Graduating from Tokyo Girls Advanced Education School in Japan, she worked as a teacher and then in 1941, she joined the Faculty of Science at Hokkaidao Imperial University, the first Korean woman. She started in the Department. of Botanical Science at Hokkaido Imperial University where she attended the Botanical Physiology Class of Sakamura Tetsu and performed research on filamentous fungus, a kind of mold. As a result of that research, she prepared graduation theses, “On the absorption of nitrite” and “Absorption of acetate and color by filamentous fungus” and then graduated in September 1943. After graduation, she entered the graduate school of Faculty of Agricultural Science, Hokkaido Imperial University where she continued her research in mycology and joined the Applied Mycology Class. Around that time, the Second World War reached a peak and she had to return to Korea. Following the Liberation of Korea in 1945, she could not return to Japan and stayed on in Korea.
After Liberation, Professor Kim became Professor of the Dept. of Biology, College of Education, Seoul National University. Still, she sought a way to return to Japan for a doctoral doctoral degree. She got the opportunity in 1948 and she resigned her academic position and prepared to leave for Japan. That effort was stymied by the Korean War. Nevertheless, she did not give up her dream of studying abroad and finally in 1961, after 15 years, she returned to Japan. She entered Hokkaido University where she worked as a researcher, and worked also at the Biophysical Research Laboratory of Professor Tomita Kiichi, Faculty of Agricultural Science, Kyushu University. This effort proves that her passion for science was extraordinary.
At Kyushu University, she performed research on the interrelations of light and Taka-amylase A, the carbohydrase that aspergillus secretes. In the process of that research, she published several papers for the Japan Agriculture and Chemistry Society Journal. In 1965, she also published two papers of “Substrate Effect on Heat Inactivation of Taka-amylase A” and “Inhibition of Photo-Inactivation of Taka-amylase A by Halogen Ions” with Tomita in “Nature,” the globally-renowned science journal. She combined her research papers as a doctoral dissertation in 1966, titled “Photoinactivation of Taka-amylase A”, making her the first Korean female Ph.D. in agricultural science.
Returning to Korea, she served Kunkuk University as professor and later in 1968, became Professor of the Dept. of Food and Nutrition Science, Seoul Women’s University at the occasion of the establishment of the department. There she began research on applied mycology in earnest. Her research at that point was applied research, the investigation, testing and development of targeting mushrooms. This approach was far from her doctoral dissertation which was closer to basic research. She established Microorganism Institute affiliated with Seoul Women’s University for scientific research and she endeavored to receive research grants and government financial support. In 1972, she established the Korea Mycology Society and took up the position of the founding President. She proceeded to launch the society’s journal, to enter into the International Mycology Association, and engage in joint collection efforts, etc. She led the institutional development of mycology in Korea. Moreover, she made pioneering and prominent achievements such as success in the first artificial cultivation of the oyster mushroom, heading projects for test cultivation of wild mushrooms, publishing "Korean Mushroom Illustration", etc. In 1989, she established Seongji Academic Award with her own funds and granted the award to the best mycologists.
Professor Kim was a pioneering female scientist who trailblazed the field of Korean mycology and made great achievements with enthusiastic passion for science even in a poor environment. At the time, women were dismissed from science. After tremendous difficulties, she acquired a Ph.D. degree at the age of 57 and she published the mushroom illustration book at 81, proceeding to conduct an investigative science voyage. She performed scientific research even late in life and also exerted prominent leadership for the institutionalization of mycology.
Her continued endeavors of uncommon passion resulted in great scientific achievements All her scientific voyages and achievements proved the scale of her impact on Korean science, a model of a woman who worked tirelessly to be an excellent scientist.