Shuji Nakamura (1954) is a Japanese-born American physicist and inventor specializing in the field of semiconductor technology, professor at the Materials Department of the College of Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB),and is regarded as the inventor of the blue LED, a major breakthrough in lighting technology.
Dr. Shuji Nakamura,creator of the blue laser diode and the blue, green and white light-emitting diodes (LED), explained why he finds the U.S. more conducive to innovation and Japan more conducive to manufacturing. Dr. Nakamura also discussed his lawsuit against his employer, Nichia Corporation, for patent infringement on blue LED technology culminating in a whopping $190 million award. Blue LED is the light that powers the ubiquitous white-flashing pedestrian sign at pedestrian crosswalks.
Dr. Nakamura observed that Japanese company researchers owe a deep,deep loyalty to the master, comparable to a samurai's loyalty to his lord in Japan's Edo period. That loyalty is a hidden strength of Japanese manufacturers, who are able to produce strong teams as a result of the cooperation they are able to elicit, he noted. By contrast, he finds Americans lack the team discipline for which Japan is noted and on which manufacturing relies. You tell Americans to come on time but they won't, he said with a smile.
In his new tenured position at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dr. Nakamura also finds the heterogeneity of his American students really surprising in contrast to the relative homogeneity of Japanese students. The explanation lies in how Japanese and Americans are socialized, he said. "We're taught that silence is golden. You're taught to assert yourself." The U.S. emphasis on individualism is more conducive to invention than to teamwork, and it is also more conducive to innovation, he asserted.
Millennium Technology Prize (2006)
Harvey Prize (2009)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2014)
National Inventors Hall of Fame (2015)