Japan foundation honors tech, arts pioneers

Congrats to chemist Hiroo Inokuchi, prof. emeritus at both the U. of Tokyo and the Institute for Molecular Science at Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences, winner of this year’s Kyoto Prize for contribution to mankind in the area of advanced technology. Inokuchi was an early pioneer in investigating electrical resistance of pulverized carbon powders, ultimately playing a key role in the discovery of semiconductive properties in organic materials — which he later named “organic semiconductors.” He also played a role in discovering how bromine or iodine added to an organic material such as perylene significantly increases its electrical conductivity.

Inokuchi’s early work also looked at electronic structures in organic compounds, initially electrical conductance between molecules with benzene rings. From this work has sprung developments in organic electroluminescent panels, seen as a possible next-generation replacement for LCDs.

The Kyoto Prize also recognizes two other non-technology recipients for their contributions in areas of basic sciences and “arts and philosophy.” This year, those winners are Hiroo Kanamori, for his work to understand the physical processes of earthquakes and develop seismic hazard mitigation systems as well as a tsunami warning system; and Pina Bausch, who “transcends the conventional domains of dance and theater” with her genre of “Tanztheater” as a holistic theatrical art.

In recognition of their achievements, the three winners will receive a 20k gold medal, a cash prize of 50 million yen (approx. US$410,000), and an invitation to the Kyoto Laureate Symposium in San Diego early next year to hobnob with past award winners. Kyoto prizes have been presented to 71 recipients from 12 nations (32 from the US), ranging from scientists and engineers to architects, philosophers, sculptors — and even Japanese performance puppeteers.


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