In 1871 he went to the United State and studied at Yale University.
He returned to Japan in 1875 and the following year became a professorial assistant in Tokyo Kaisei Gakko, which later became Tokyo Imperial University. In 1886 he was appointed a professor in the Science College of Tokyo University and in time was put in charge of the subject of physics. In 1888 he received the degree of Doctor of Science. In 1893 he became head of the Science College and in 1901 was appointed president of Tokyo Imperial University. He left the position in 1905, after which he served as president ot Kyushu Imperial University, as head of Tokyo University once more, and as head of Kyoto Imperial University.
In 1923 he became an advisor to the Privy Council. In his late years he became associated with the Central United Organization of Social Education and the political body known as the Kokuhonsha, working to advance the movement for nationalistic education.