Interview: Inventor Dr. NakaMats

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  • Thursday, 18 July 2013 12:24
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Dr. Yoshiro NakaMats is said by many to be Japan’s most prolific inventor. Take an in-depth look at his astonishing background in what is his most revealing interview ever.

Interview with Inventor Dr. Yoshiro NakaMats

Dr. Yoshiro NakaMats is said by many to be Japan’s most prolific inventor. His documented patents include some of the most significant inventions of our time including 16 patents related to the floppy disk which he sold to IBM, and many other inventions including retractable landing gear, the digital watch, the digital display and in total 3,368 inventions. Dr. NakaMats sat down with Tokyo Journal for an in-depth look at his astonishing background in what is his most revealing interview ever.

TJ: How many patents do you currently have?
Dr. NakaMats: 3,368. Thomas Edison had 1,093 inventions and he passed away at the age of 84. My 84th birthday has come and gone and I am still inventing.

TJ: What was your very first invention?
Dr. NakaMats: My first invention was at the age of five. It was an automatic center of gravity adjuster for airplanes that I invented in 1933. This invention is still used by Boeing and other major aircraft companies.

TJ: So this automatic center of gravity adjuster is used in Auto Pilot. Did you patent that invention?
Dr. NakaMats: No, because I was only five years old. I couldn’t fill out the patent application. This is a model airplane that I made by myself. Here is a photo of me holding the airplane at the age of five and if you look closely at this part here, this is the automatic center of gravity adjuster. I still have this original model that I made by hand in 1933 in my museum in Tokyo.

TJ: What was your very first patent and how old were you at the time?
Dr. NakaMats:I was 14 years old and I patented a kerosene pump and siphon.

TJ: Was that a Japanese patent?
Dr. NakaMats: Yes. A Japanese patent. I filled out the patent form myself and took it to the patent office.

TJ: Wow! That kerosene pump is used widely throughout Japan and all over the world for that matter. So you were a child prodigy! Did you excel in school?
Dr. NakaMats: Yes, let me show you. Here are copies of my actual grade reports. As you can see from elementary school through university, I had no absences, I was never late and I always had the top score.

TJ: I noticed a picture here of you with Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. Where is this picture taken at?
Dr. NakaMats: That photo was taken in Prime Minister Yoshida’s private home. I was demonstrating a prototype of the floppy disk. I had invented a special paper that when run through a special machine could produce sound and images, and Prime Minister Yoshida used this invention to communicate secret messages between the Japanese and U.S. governments. This was the predecessor to the floppy disk that I later invented.

TJ: I see you studied at the University of Tokyo. What was your major?
Dr. NakaMats: Engineering and Law.

TJ: So which school did you graduate from? The School of Engineering or the School of Law?
Dr. NakaMats: Both. I did a double major. In order to invent you need to understand both engineering and law. So I spent six years as an undergraduate student pursuing both.

TJ: What were you learning about in your engineering program?
Dr. NakaMats: I studied airplane design in both University and in the Military academy.

TJ:As I understand it, your family is related to the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Dr. NakaMats: Yes, but the Tokugawa Family His astonishing story through his most revealing interview ever is not really named Tokugawa. The actual family name is Matsudaira. My family was in the center of the Matsudaira family. Matsudaira means “pine plane” and NakaMats means “center of the pine.” So my family lived inside the Edo Castle for 400 years and controlled Japan. During the Meiji Revolution, our family moved to the Sendagaya / Aoyama area where I was born.

TJ: So after graduating from the University of Tokyo, what did you do?
Dr. NakaMats: I entered Mitsui & Co. As you may know, at that time Mitsui was not strong. After the war, the zaibatsu (family-controlled corporate monopolies) were broken up and Mitsui was fragmented. I could have entered stronger companies such as Hitachi or Toshiba and received a much higher salary, but I selected Mitsui because I had an uncle in top management at Mitsui and he asked me to join.

Another reason that led me to Mitsui was because they had an aircraft division as they were an agent of Douglass Aircraft. At the time the occupational forces stopped all production of aircraft in Japan. Since I had studied aircraft design in both university and the Military Technology Academy, I was looking for a way to work with airplanes, and Mitsui, being the only company with an aircraft division, provided that opportunity. As the occupational forces had stopped the production of all aircraft, I decided to define aircraft as “fixed-wing aircraft” and then I started making rotating wing aircraft. In other words, helicopters. Therefore, I received my license as a helicopter pilot and an in-flight engineer, a job I also did during the War while in the Navy.

During this first big project with Mitsui, I made many inventions in order to sell the helicopters. I created an aerial wiring system and an aerial duster as you can see in this photograph.

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