In this article, writer Leila McNeill offers a portrait of scientist Kono Yasui, a Japanese woman who broke grounds in academia, research and teaching. Aged 47, she was the first Japanese woman to earn a PhD in science (Tokyo Imperial University, 1927). This was an achievement in a cultural context in which women’s roles were restricted to being ‘good wives’ and ‘wise mothers’, rather than leaders of scientific inquiry. She was the first Japanese woman to publish in an academic journal, ‘Weber’s Organ of Carp Fish’ in Zoological Science; and the first to publish in a foreign (British) journal, Annals of Botany, ‘On the Life History of Salvinia Natans’ from her study of plant cells. Dedicating her life to research and committing to never marry, Yasui received ministerial funding to research abroad, in the US. In 1949, she contributed to the establishment of TWHNS, a national research university for women. Photo Credit: Ochanomizu University archive