Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Japan Forgives BadBoy?

Scientist Shuji Nakamura (中村 修二) did his best work in Japan, at Nichia Corporation. His groundbreaking research on blue LED was today honored with the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Nakamura now works in the USA, and on becoming a US citizen would have been typically forced by Japanese law to drop his Japanese citizenship.

What led one of Japan's star scientists to abandon his home?  Nakamura was working for Nichia Corporation of Tokushima when in 1993 he developed & patented his key nitride LED technology. Nichia Corp. was estimated to have benefited 60.4 billion yen (US$600 million) from Nakamura's contribution by 2004. They kindly offered him a bonus of 20,000 yen (US$200).  Nakamura ultimately left the company, sued for additional compensation, and won a sum of approximately a third of the calculated benefits.  But the corporation appealed, and ultimately Nakamura accepted a court-mediated settlement only some 4% of the original judgement. Nakamura was quoted in LEDs Magazine (link) as being "totally dissatisfied"...

Prof. Shuji Nakamura is now based at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Discussion on Japanese television the day of the Nobel announcement gave no hint of past struggles and frictions, simply and proudly stating "three Japanese" won the Nobel Prize for Physics.