The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) has completed its extensive oral history of Dr. Kazuo Inamori, a pioneer in the field of engineered ceramics who, at 80, is regarded as one of Japan’s most respected living entrepreneurs.
The institution’s renowned Oral History Program compiles interviews with leaders in the fields of science and industry as a means to record the personal experiences of those who have improved our world.
Inamori founded the Kyoto Ceramic Co. (now Kyocera Corporation) in 1959 and spent decades developing new applications for engineered ceramics ― in everything from early TVs to semiconductors, Japan’s bullet train, IBM computers and the NASA space program. His leadership philosophy guided him in establishing Japan’s No.2 telecommunications carrier, DDI (now KDDI) in 1984, and in accepting a volunteer assignment in 2010 to lead the bankruptcy turnaround of Japan Airlines, which is succeeding ahead of schedule.
“CHF was eager to add Dr. Kazuo Inamori’s oral history to our collection ― not only because of his original work in developing ceramics for the semiconductor industry, but also because of his unique approach to leadership,” said Tom Tritton, CHF president. “In his various roles as an entrepreneur, inventor, management innovator and philanthropist, as well as his devotion to high ethical standards in dealing with co-workers, collaborators and competitors, Kazuo Inamori has shown how one determined, talented individual can improve the lives of millions.”
CHF recorded about 10 hours of conversations in which Inamori talked about technology, the philosophy of leadership, his entrepreneurial ventures and his commitment to philanthropy and ethical principles. His oral history covers such topics as:
- His early development of the tunnel kiln and ceramic components like the U-shaped kelcima, which supported Japan’s nascent TV industry;
- His collaborative efforts in developing the world’s first laptop computer in the 1980s;
- His strategy in launching DDI (now KDDI), Japan’s second-largest telecommunications carrier, and success in reducing telecom rates for millions of consumers;
- His current unpaid efforts in leading Japan Airlines from bankruptcy to the highest profits it has ever recorded;
- His establishment of the non-profit Inamori Foundation and the Kyoto Prize, Japan’s highest private award for global achievement; and
- His views and aspirations for the future.
Inamori’s accomplishments also influenced the decision by CHF’s selection committee to present him with its Othmer Gold Medal in 2011. In receiving this award, Inamori joined an esteemed group of innovators that also includes Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel; James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA; George Whitesides, a pioneer in several areas of chemistry and nanotechnology; Jon Huntsman Sr., a groundbreaking contributor to the modern chemicals industry; and Arnold Beckman, who played a pivotal role in the birth of Silicon Valley.
CHF has accumulated nearly 500 oral histories exploring a wide range of scientific and technological achievements that range from chemistry to biotechnology. Besides the oral histories of 21 Nobel laureates, CHF has also collected the life stories of more than 50 key figures in the world of semiconductors ― among them such important innovator/entrepreneurs as Intel’s Moore and Andrew Grove, as well as Fairchild’s Jay Last and Julius Blank.
CHF’s oral histories, including audio and visual recordings and bound transcripts, are accessible by visiting The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History at CHF in Philadelphia, PA. Transcripts can be ordered by visiting www.chemheritage.org/discover/collections/oral-histories.
Kyocera Corporation (NYSE:KYO)(TOKYO:6971) (http://global.kyocera.com/), the parent and global headquarters of the Kyocera Group, was founded in 1959 as a producer of fine ceramics (also known as “advanced ceramics”). By combining these engineered materials with metals and plastics, and integrating them with other technologies, Kyocera has become a leading supplier of solar power generating systems, telecommunications equipment, printers, copiers, electronic components, semiconductor packages, cutting tools and industrial ceramics. During the year ended March 31, 2011, the company’s net sales totaled 1.27 trillion yen (approx. USD15.3 billion). The company is ranked #604 on Forbes magazine’s 2011 “Global 2000” listing of the world’s largest publicly traded companies.
About the Chemical Heritage Foundation
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) fosters an understanding of chemistry’s impact on society. An independent nonprofit organization, we strive to
- Inspire a passion for chemistry;
- Highlight chemistry’s role in meeting current social challenges; and
- Preserve the story of chemistry and its technologies and industries across centuries.
CHF maintains major collections of instruments, fine art, photographs, papers, and books. We host conferences and lectures, support research, offer fellowships, and produce educational materials. Our museum and public programs explore subjects ranging from alchemy to nanotechnology.
Jay Scovie / (San Diego)
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