The Prize Story

'84: Encouraging Advice from the Boss paving the Way to Success for Him

In the summer of 1984, with the deadline coming close, the Central Research Laboratory's laser team had finished production of one instrument - a laser microprobe time-of-flight mass spectrometer that laser-irradiated a sample to ionize it, put it to flight and then measured the mass according to the time of flight. However, as there was no suitable field of application at the time, this instrument was put on the back burner for commercialization. This turned out to be the next problem for the laser team as team leader Tamio Yoshida had to decide whether the team should continue to research in "a laser technology field with less hope " or "disband the team."
With Yoshida in a quandary, it was the encouraging advice of Toshiya Kubodera (currently the President of Shimadzu Rika Instruments) who said, "what about setting your sights on the development of a macromolecular mass spectrometer instead of a general multipurpose machine?"
At the time, Kubodera was involved in the development of instruments aimed at pharmaceutical companies and chemical manufacturers and, as such, was in daily contact with engineers and researchers from such companies, so he knew the potential needs of the market. An analyzer capable of analyzing macromolecules such as proteins still did not exist but customers dreamt of having one. With this in mind, the laser team resolved themselves to make a device that would be the first in the world and redoubled their fervor to achieve the new objective. So it was that in October 1984 the laser team switched to a research theme with a one-and-half year targeted time scale based on "research of a laser ionization method to generate macromolecular ions and the pertinent measuring technology" for bio-related substances.

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