Hiroshima at 70: hidden documents reveal UoR first to support Peace Library

Secret generosity of Mary Kirkus, librarian who was first to respond to an appeal from Hiroshima, leads to deeply poignant gift for UoR 60 years later.

New research has found the University of Reading was the first institution to respond to Hiroshima University’s (HU) global call for support after it was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Astonishingly, this remained secret until 2011, when a thank you letter arrived from HU – along with a deeply moving memento; a collection of roof tiles, complete with safety certificate, collected from the riverbed. These came from the globally iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, the only surviving structure near the hypocentre of the blast and now part of the famous Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The gift is hugely poignant as portions like this are believed locally to be infused with the soul of the victims.Mary Kirkus 1951-letter

In 1951 HU President Tatsuo Morito sent letters to universities world-wide, asking for support to re-establish the university by donating books for a peace library, as well as seeds to bring the charred grounds back to life. Previously unseen documents from both universities’ archives reveal Reading was the first to respond, a decision that remained a secret for 60 years.

Intriguingly, in the post war environment of economic gloom and emergent details of the war in the Far East, the research suggests that the decision may not have been sanctioned by senior management.

Records show that is was not discussed, or at least minuted in any formal meeting, by senior figures at the University. A letter from Mary Kirkus, University Librarian from 1941 to 1959, to President Morito suggests she may have made the decision alone. The University of Reading was inscribed on the donations in acknowledgment of ‘the contribution’ and ‘good will’, and remain in the Peace Library today.

Dr Jacqui Turner, from the University of Reading’s Department of History, has led the research. She said: “6 August 1945 is a date that changed the world. The atomic bomb decimated Hiroshima and completely destroyed its university, killing all students and staff. With post-war tensions still running high the world was slow to respond to President Morito’s request. However five UK institutions did send donations in 1951 – and the University of Reading led the way. Momentum for the peace library steadily grew and it now forms part of the main library at Hiroshima University.

Morito’s request was for books or pamphlets that reflected what was ‘considered valuable by your university or of note in your country’ or books concerning ‘peace problems’. Mary Kirkus of the University of Reading sent:

  • John W. Wheeler-Bennett, Disarmament and Security since Locarno 1925- 1931 (1932)
  • Aristophanes, The birds and the frogs – a translation into English of Aristophanes comedies
  • Handbrucher der praktischen Vogeschictsforschung  (A full set of Journals of Pre-Historical Research)

Dr Turner continued: “Why did Reading respond? It’s likely this was a personal decision by Mary Kirkus, although we may never know for sure. Amazingly this decision remained secret until 2011 when our previous Vice-Chancellor received a thank you letter from his counterpart at Hiroshima – along with the surprising and remarkable gift of the collection of roof tiles. This was a hugely emotive gesture: letters highlight how the Japanese believe that each tile ‘contains the souls of the people whose lives were regretfully taken away by this tragedy’. In the immediate aftermath of the bomb many rushed into the rivers of Hiroshima and died in the water before being washed away – ‘the roof tiles have absorbed the blood and body fluids’ of those who died that day.”

Reading and Hiroshima’s unique bond is growing stronger and stronger. Earlier this year the University held a symposium to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.  During the event Vice-Chancellor of the University, Sir David Bell, read a letter sent by the Mayor of Hiroshima who asked attendees ‘in response to the desire of all hibakusha (survivors of the bomb) to continue to strive with us to eliminate the absolute evil of nuclear weapons and achieve a peaceful world. He also received thanks from President Ashara, current President of HU with thanks for an “outstanding example of peace.”

Dr Turner said: “The legacy of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs reverberates around the world, not more so than in the cities themselves. It has been an emotional and fascinating journey to uncover this story – Reading is very proud to be a friend of Hiroshima University.”

The tiles are an integral part of the Department of History’s innovative teaching programmes and are used actively in its leading research projects.



Last Saturday and Sunday, the University of Reading Malaysiawelcomed almost 2,000 visitors, four times as many as expected, to our brand new campus in Educity, Iskandar.

The Open Days gave prospective students and their parents the chance to experience the campus first hand and see the facilities that we have on offer, including the Student Village and the EduCity Sports Complex.

Based on our sector-leading Open Day operation in the UK, we combined a welcome from the Provost, Professor Tony Downes, with subject taster sessions and an expo in the Student Association space. Our current students were on hand to tell our visitors what it is like to study with the University of Reading Malaysia and share information about the clubs and societies.

In line with Malaysian hospitality, guests were also able to enjoy an English high tea.

malaysia opening

The University of Reading Malaysia will welcome its first Foundation students on the 14th September and first undergraduates on 28th September. We will be offering foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in business and finance, quantity surveying, real estate, and psychology, plus English language teaching, and the prestigious Henley Business School MBA.

Provost, Professor Tony Downes, said: “Our Open Day weekend was the first time we have invited the public in to see our new campus.  What a milestone to have reached, after many years of dedicated hard work by University of Reading Malaysia and University of Reading staff – so, time for a very big thank you to everyone involved.  It was an amazing weekend of excitement, pride and emotion. We can’t wait to welcome our first students here in a few weeks’ time.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, Sir David Bell, said: “The opening of the University of Reading Malaysia campus is an important step in our overall plan to become a truly global institution.

“Universities in the UK are competing against institutions around the world. Having a strong presence in south-east Asia will help us as we seek to attract even more top quality international students.”

To apply for the University of Reading Malaysia, please click here.


Reading students will be backstage at Reading Festival this weekend, bringing big interviews and festival news live

Visit our Backstage Pass blog here.With less than a week to go until Reading Festival 2015, The University of Reading is delighted to announce its first-ever partnership with Bauer Media and Festival Republic. As part of this exciting collaboration, University of Reading students will be backstage at Reading Festival 2015 this bank holiday weekend, bringing fans the big interviews and festival news as it happens. During the three days the students will be part of Bauer’s team, creating content for Bauer channels alongside Kerrang! The partnership also gives our students exclusive behind the scenes access to some of the biggest names in music.

Melvin Benn, Festival Republic has said: “We’re extremely excited to be working both with Bauer and the University of Reading this year. It’s a great opportunity for this next generation of journalists and we’re proud to say they’re able to start their journey at Reading Festival 2015.”

Reading Festival with University of Reading
Reading Festival with University of Reading

Karen Smalley, Head of Brand and Campaigns at the University of Reading, said: “We are thrilled to be working alongside a global publishing powerhouse like Bauer Media. For our students it’s an amazing opportunity to show their talents and represent the University. They’ll be gaining experience and contacts that could shape their future careers – interviewing some of the hottest bands and some of the music industry’s biggest hitters along the way at Reading Festival 2015.”

Neil Mcsteen, Head of Music at Bauer Media, said: “The stage is set for the best Reading Festival ever. Collaborating with the University of Reading at its famous hometown music festival was an opportunity not to be missed. By using ‘super-teams’ comprised of our renowned experts and hungry, talented students, Bauer will be providing its audience with the fastest and most complete coverage of the Reading Festival to date.”

The Reading Festival takes place between 28th-30th August. The University of Reading will be blogging and tweeting leading up to and over the festival weekend. As well as giving festival-goers updates on what they can expect weather-wise, Reading researchers will be providing expert commentary on subjects ranging from youth sub-cultures to how music can help us understand the causes of depression.


Royal Mail’s Stamp of Approval from Reading’s Bee Experts

University of Reading scientists have helped Royal Mail to create a new set of special stamps celebrating British bees.

Two of the new Royal Mail stamps featuring bees

Royal Mail worked closely with bee expert Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER) – part of the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

The stamps feature the Scabious Bee, Great Yellow Bumblebee, Northern Colletes Bee, Bilberry Bumblebee, Large Mason Bee and the Potter Flower Bee.

An additional miniature sheet includes four stamps showing the life and importance of the honeybee.

Royal Mail also commissioned new research that found that more than half of people questioned (53%) could not name any type of bee – despite nearly 87% saying they care about the bee population in the UK.

Findings also discovered that only 3% of people were aware there are around 250 species of bee living in the UK, with the majority (71%) believing there were fewer than 20.

Professor Potts said: “Scientists are learning more and more about the complex biology of bees, and this beautiful series of stamps captures the amazing diversity of bees and their lifestyles in the UK.

“It’s a chance for us to keep learning about the unique wildlife that surrounds us.”

Results 2015 Results 2015: if you have a Firm or Insurance offer for an undergraduate programme click here for more information.

sheildWhen you’ve received your results (and we have also received them) you can check the status of your application through the UCAS Track service using your Personal UCAS ID number and password. Alternatively, you can check the status of your application through the RISISweb Portal using your Reading ID number and password.

If you’re unsure whether you need to send your results to us, then check the UCAS website to see which results we receive automatically. If your qualification(s) aren’t on the list, you will need to scan and email them to us at applicantresults@reading.ac.uk

If your place is showing as unconditional on UCAS Track or the RISISweb Portal then your place at the University of Reading is confirmed. Congratulations! We will be contacting you via email in the next few weeks to provide more information about what will happen next as you join the University of Reading. In the meantime, why not explore our Welcome website?

If your offer is still conditional, then please do not worry. We have put together some frequently asked questions, which we hope will help answer any queries you may have. However please do feel free to contact us should you require anything further.

You can call our confirmation hotline on +44 (0)118 378 8372 or email us at ugadmissions@reading.ac.uk.

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