Japanese Nobel Laureates



Eisaku Sato




    The Nobel Prize is the most, if not one of the most, prestigious prizes in all of academia and the world. Its recipients are noted for their "cultural and scientific advances." The first Nobel prize was awarded in 1901, and is the legacy of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer and inventor. During his lifetime he invented and refined the use of dynamite, creating a smokeless version that is the precursor to the gunpowder used in todays weaponry. He is credited with over 350 patents, and by his death in 1896 had amassed a fortune from the sales of his explosives.


     In 1888 a French newspaper published an obituary for Alfred, however, obviously he was not dead; it was his brother who had passed on and the french mistook his identity. As Alfred read the obituary, titled "The Merchant of Death is Dead," he was horrified, and vowed to rewrite his will and leave a lasting and positive legacy. He left 94% of his fortune, over $180 million in 2008 dollars, to establish prizes for the greatest benefit to mankind in Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology and Medicine.


List Of Japanese Winners



     Since WWII, there have been eighteen Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize, with the most (seven) winners coming from Physics and Chemistry. Literature and Physiology/Medicine each have two, and only one Peace prize has been awarded to a Japanese citizen.


     Japan has invested heavily in science and technology in its post-war history. I am no physicist, chemist or engineer, so most of the information regarding the awarding of 14 nobel prizes to those fields in Japan baffle me (and probably you too!).

Toshihide Masukawa, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2008 




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Eisaku Sato is the only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize from Japan. He was the Prime Minister of Japan from 1964 to 1972 in the heart of the Cold War. During his administration, Nuclear Weapons were held on both sides and allies lobbied to acquire the powerful weapons from each side. Sato partnered with the US to keep nuclear weapons off of Japanese soil. He proffered the Three Nuclear Principles, which have been the maxims for Japanese nuclear policy ever since he stated them in 1967:


1. To promote the peaceful use of nuclear power,

2. To work toward global nuclear disarmament,

3. To rely on the extended U.S. nuclear deterrent

4. To support the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

He signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation treat on behalf of Japan in 1971. In 1974, he received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to reduce the danger and proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:


"Nevertheless, this progress represents only a freezing at present level. It is the earnest hope of our people that the world may see the day when all nuclear weapons are abolished. If I may, however, be allowed to put this in more realistic, if more modest, terms, the nuclear Powers, with the United States and the USSR taking the lead, should, at least, cease their quantitative and qualitative nuclear arms race, and sincerely explore effective and practical means for the gradual reduction and international control of nuclear arms."




Nobel laureates

Nobel prizeYearLifeEducationNotes
Akira Suzuki Chemistry 2010 1930- Hokkaido University "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis" shared with Richard F. Heck and Ei-ichi Negishi
Ei-ichi Negishi Chemistry 2010 1935- University of Tokyo ,University of Pennsylvania "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis" shared with Richard F. Heck and Akira Suzuki
Osamu Shimomura Chemistry 2008 1928– Nagasaki University ,Nagoya University "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP" – shared with Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien, held American nationality.[3]
Makoto Kobayashi Physics 2008 1944– Nagoya University "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature" – shared with Yoichiro Nambu and Toshihide Maskawa.[4]
Toshihide Maskawa Physics 2008 1940– Nagoya University "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature" – shared with Yoichiro Nambu and Makoto Kobayashi.[4]
Yoichiro Nambu Physics 2008 1921– Tokyo Imperial University "for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics" – held American nationality, shared with Makoto Kobayashiand Toshihide Maskawa.[4]
Masatoshi Koshiba Physics 2002 1926– University of Tokyo "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos" – shared with Raymond David Jr and Riccardo Giacconi.[5]
Koichi Tanaka Chemistry 2002 1959– Tohoku University "for the development of methods for identification and structure analyses of biological macromolecules" and "for their development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules" – shared with John Fenn and Kurt Wüthrich.[6]
Ryōji Noyori Chemistry 2001 1938– Kyoto University "for their work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions" – shared withWilliam Knowles and Barry Sharpless.[7]
Hideki Shirakawa Chemistry 2000 1936– Tokyo Institute of Technology "for the discovery and development of conductive polymers" – shared with Alan MacDiarmid and Alan Heeger.[8]
Kenzaburō Ōe Literature 1994 1935– University of Tokyo "who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today."[9]
Susumu Tonegawa Physiology or Medicine 1987 1939– Kyoto University ,University of California, San Diego "for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity."[10]
Kenichi Fukui Chemistry 1981 1918–1998 Kyoto Imperial University "for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions" – shared with Roald Hoffmann.[11]
Eisaku Satō Peace 1974 1901–1975 Tokyo Imperial University Shared with Seán MacBride.[12]
Leo Esaki Physics 1973 1925– Tokyo Imperial University "for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors, respectively" – shared with Ivar Giaeverand Brian David Josephson.
Yasunari Kawabata Literature 1968 1899–1972 Tokyo Imperial University "for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind" – .[13]
Sin-Itiro Tomonaga Physics 1965 1906–1979 Kyoto Imperial University "for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles" – shared with Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman.[14]
Hideki Yukawa Physics 1949 1907–1981 Kyoto Imperial University ,Osaka University "for his prediction of the existence of mesons on the basis of theoretical work on nuclear forces"[15]