Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. started as a small firm established in 1953 by Heihachiro Horiuchi who studied under the guidance of Dr. Kenjiro Takayanagi now respectfully called the “father of Japanese television.” Since then, we have inherited the “photoelectric technology” developed by Dr. Takayanagi for converting light into electrical signals as well as “the spirit of pursuing unknown and unexplored realms” which led him to the achievement of displaying the Japanese character “イ” on a cathode-ray tube for the first time in the world. Over the past 65 years, we have been consistently engaged in developing photoelectric devices and their application products while moving forward along with the continuing advances in technologies of light.
Just as electrons and electronics brought immeasurable richness to our lives in the 20th century, the 21th century will be the age of photons (particles of light) and photonics. Spurred by the unlimited possibilities of light, photonics technology is increasingly applied in a wide range of fields. However, the interaction of light with matter is still hardly understood at the present time. By pursuing the ultimate limits of photoelectric conversion technology to approach the true nature of light, Hamamatsu Photonics has been challenging the unknown where no one has yet explored, with the aim of creating new industries by utilizing light and acquiring new knowledges.
Dr. Kenjiro Takayanagi (1899 to 1990)
Dr. Kenjiro Takayanagi - “Father of Japanese television” Dr. Kenjiro Takayanagi was born in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1899, and graduated from the industrial teacher training school attached to the Tokyo Kuramae Higher Technical School (now Tokyo Institute of Technology). In 1924, he returned to his hometown Hamamatsu and took a post as an assistant professor at Hamamatsu Industrial High School (now the Faculty of Engineering of Shizuoka University), and at the same time he started research on television technology. Being encouraged by the school philosophy “Freedom and Enlightenment,” Dr. Takayanagi’s research team succeeded for the first time in the world in displaying an image (Japanese character “イ”) on an electronic television screen. This was in 1926, a mere 2 years after he had started his research work.
Heihachiro Horiuchi, the founding president of our company, studied as a student directly under Dr. Takayanagi and was guided by him at Hamamatsu Industrial High School. Dr. Takayanagi spoke to his students from time to time saying things like, “What is the purpose of that technology? Will technology prove beneficial to our lives? Make these questions a fundamental part of your research at all times.” He also admonished us not to “learn for learning’s sake” and “research for research’s sake” and always struggled to link the acts of learning and research to value in human life and human society. He never changed this philosophy throughout his whole life.
The Japanese character “イ”displayed on a cathode-ray tube.
(The photograph shows a device reproducing the character in the Hamamatsu Science Museum.)
As Kenjiro Takayanagi was pursuing his research and was engaged in developing technology that would serve society ten to twenty years in the future, he occasionally had a mental image of the goddess of fortune, and always saw her portrayed as a beautiful woman with full bangs, but no hair at the back of her head. Playing with this idea, Takayanagi imagined that, in order to seize the goddess of fortune, one would have to be one step ahead of her, wait for her to catch up, and then turn around and seize her by the forelocks. Applying this whimsical fancy to his work, Takayanagi resolved to always be one step ahead and have the technology ready when the opportunity to apply it came within reach. Hamamatsu Photonics carries on this spirit today, constantly striving to be ready and waiting when opportunity arises.
Heihachiro Horiuchi (1915 to 1997) with a phototube in hand.
Being fascinated by the wonders of light since his elementary school days, Heihachiro Horiuchi entered the Electrical Department of Hamamatsu Industrial High School (now the Faculty of Engineering of Shizuoka University) where his hero Professor Takayanagi was teaching and was greatly inspired by the professor’s philosophy called Takayanagi-ism. Horiuchi decided to follow this “path of light” by providing society with the means or namely products that would make effective use of light and he worked on developing photoelectric devices that convert light into electrical signals and even now this basic technology still supports our work.
At the time that the words “optical industry” did not even exist, I thought of making a living by starting a company to produce and sell photoelectric devices. Some of my seniors were worried and advised me, “Those things are like works of art and won’t make any business profits from the viewpoint of both marketability and yield rate. So should give up on this dream.” However, I had heard a story during my elementary school days: “The light from Polaris also called the North Star travels through space for 800 light-years before reaching us on Earth.” Since then, I have been totally fascinated by “light” and also attracted to the Professor Takayanagi’s research on television and my thoughts resonated with the spirit of Takayanagi-ism. All of this had already led me to the decision that I would go my own way to pursue the path of light even if I didn’t have enough food, clothing or shelter, so there was nothing to hold me back from following my dream. Light is the source of our lives and also greatly relates to our mental activities. Nevertheless, light is nearly totally unknown to us. I then established the management philosophy underlying a way to understand the nature of light and provide society with a means that allows us to make more use of light.
Teruo Hiruma, Former Chairman and CEO(1926 to 2018)
Speech at the 24th Hamamatsu Conference in 2007
Teruo Hiruma is one of the founding members and the former president of our company. After graduating in 1947 from the Machinery Department of Hamamatsu Industrial High School in the old education system (now the Faculty of Engineering of Shizuoka University), he established “Hamamatsu TV Co., Ltd.” along with Heihachiro Horiuchi and Norio Hanyu in 1953. Then, in 1978, Teruo Hiruma became the second president. He strongly pushed toward the challenge of opening up the unknown and unexplored which was taken over from Dr. Takayanagi and Heihachiro Horiuchi, and as a result our company has grown into a worldwide company leading the pack in photonics technology. In 1983, the company name was changed to “Hamamatsu Photonics K.K.” Then, in 2004, Teruo Hiruma became Chairman and Representative Director of Hamamatsu Photonics. Since 2017, he has served as honorary chairman of Hamamatsu Photonics.
Today, the application of light is ubiquitous in every field around us. Each field has become a large market and created its own specific industries. We have gained a great deal of knowledge through photonics technology in measuring the ultimate limits of light and its applied research especially in cutting-edge research fields. Based on this knowledge amassed over many years, we are aiming ourselves to create new industries by using photonics technology.
As long as we work in the field of light and photonics, we have an important role to play in pursuing and revealing the possibilities of light in this century. There are lots of things to do. Don’t say, I CAN’T, instead say, I WILL TRY.
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