My Life Working with Liquid Crystals—and How They Work for Us
Abstract of the lecture
The initial feelings of pleasure and pride experienced on learning of the Award of the 1995 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Advanced Technology are described, coupled quite naturally with some personal doubts about the recipient's worthiness of the high honour, stemming from his recognition of his own human fallibility.
There follows an analysis of why he and not some other member of the audience is this year's Laureate, and the conclusion reached is that while much depended upon his particular knowledge, education and training, strongly influenced in the early stages by his father, a very important part was played by chance factors related to particular personalities, encounters and events, and in relation to his research in display technology to the fortunate coincidence in timing in relation to two important inventions, his own and one other.
Although not a technical lecture, a description of a scientist's career and attainments cannot be given without the injection of some science, and the importance of scientists making real efforts to communicate their science to non-scientists is discussed. The great importance of communication and education in breaking down barriers between scientists and non-scientists, between rich and poor, cannot be overstressed. Using simple terms and analogies therefore, a brief description of liquid crystals is given and the reasons for their importance are described in terms of their elegant duality of property D order coupled with fluidity. In particular, unique optical properties of Nematic liquid crystals are demonstrated.
The timely, almost coincident discovery of (1) the Twisted Nematic Device and (2) the first, stable, room temperature liquid crystals is described, emphasising that the materials' discovery was based on sound knowledge established during earlier fundamental research D basic research of the kind we must be careful to foster. Full exploitation of the materials of course relied on collaborative interactions with other groups. The overall effect was the provision of a secure basis for the now highly wealth D creating Liquid Crystal Electro-optical Display Industry.
Because of its effect upon the whole field of information technology and society, this aspect of the recipient's work will always be the best known, but there were other important outcomes stemming from over 40 years of his research, resulting overall in international recognition and the affectionate title of "Father of Liquid Crystals".
After giving some criteria required for success by the young people of today, the address ends with further acknowledgement of Mr. Inamori's vision and philosophy in creating the Kyoto Laureates and providing for the speaker the most outstanding and memorable occasion of his career.