A Foreign Wife from History

My ten-year-old son is impassioned with Japanese history, and he’s always reading nonfiction books about historical figures, including Hideo Noguchi, the guy whose mug appears on the 1,000 yen bill. Noguchi is famous for having discovered the bateria that causes syphilis, and for his work, in general, as a bacteriologist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize several times, but never won.

His hand was injured in a fire during his childhood, so he was slightly disabled. An operation restored about 70% of his use of the hand. He was inspired by this to study medicine himself, but he wasn’t able to practice in Japan because people were concerned about the appearance of his burned hand. He decided to go to the United States.

Any bio of Noguchi will tell you this much, but a little known fact, conveyed by my son, is that he married an Irish-American woman named Mary Dardis. They lived together in Manhattan. That’s about all I was able to find out.

During an online search, I found a few lines about Mary. One bio said that she was helpful to her husband, but the woman who really mattered in his life was his mother, Shika. Apparently, there was once (or maybe still is!) a passage in a Japanese textbook about the relationship between Noguchi and his mother meant to illustrate that all-important bond, but no mention of his father, or, naturally, his American wife.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps she was never mentioned BECAUSE she was American. I mean it’s bad enough that this Japanese hero spent much of his life abroad. (He died in Ghana, away from his wife, from yellow fever while trying to prove that the sickness was caused by bacteria. It’s not; it’s caused by a virus.)

At any rate, I’m very curious about this woman.

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9 thoughts on “A Foreign Wife from History

  1. Don’t know if you found this:

    For example, scarcely a soul knew that Noguchi was married—to a Manhattan girl named Mary Dardis, whom he called Mazie. She called him Hidey, as he insisted. They lived in a confused menage near Central Park. He would come in at all hours, would sleep but three or four hours (when he was a child he reasoned that brief sleep was the essence of Napoleon’s career)

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,741726,00.html#ixzz0aBx4lX

    • Thanks, Andrew. I have read quite a bit about Isamu Noguchi. He even appears as a motif in my work-in-progress. And I’m very interested in the movie about his mother.

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