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Photograph of Masao Horiba

Oral history interview with Masao Horiba

  • 2004-Nov-19 (First session)
  • 2004-Nov-20 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Masao Horiba

  • 2004-Nov-19 (First session)
  • 2004-Nov-20 (Second session)

Masao Horiba begins the interview by discussing his childhood experiences in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. Horiba suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and spent much of his childhood listening to music, and building models and radio receivers. As the youngest child of chemistry professor Shinkichi Horiba, Horiba had the privilege of seeing the inner workings of various Japanese chemical plants and laboratories while accompanying his father as he visited his former university students. These visits, coupled with his education from Konan Boys' High School, increased Horiba's interest in science and made him feel at ease in the research laboratory. As Horiba matured, he cured his rheumatoid arthritis by working through his pain. Soon he was able to play sports, rugby in particular, and participate in extracurricular activities, such as the ham radio club. The looming presence of World War II forced Horiba to graduate from high school early, much to his dissatisfaction, as he was unable to study organic chemistry. Too young to join the military, Horiba decided to continue his education at Kyoto Imperial University, studying nuclear physics under Bunsaku Arakatsu.

After earning a B.S. in physics, Horiba decided to join the Japanese army's research center, to develop a radar system for the Shusui aircraft. However, the war ended before the Shusui's engine was completed, so the capability of Horiba's radar system was never demonstrated in combat. When the American occupation of Japan began in 1945, Horiba established his own private research laboratory, called the Horiba Radio Laboratory. His laboratory produced emergency power outage lamps, high-speed counters, electric-pulse oscillators, and high-quality capacitors. During the Korean War, Horiba modified the laboratory's products to meet the agrichemical needs of the country by building a pH meter better suited to Japan's humid environment. In 1953, Horiba incorporated his laboratory and renamed it HORIBA, Ltd. The new company continued to improve the Model H pH meter, and began developing inorganic single crystal windows. The company began producing infrared-based gas analyzers in 1958. They also began producing all of Hitachi, Ltd.'s analytical instrumentation under the double brand name of HITACHI-HORIBA. The Japanese government's interest in HORIBA, Ltd.'s work was peaked in the early 1960s, and they suggested that HORIBA build an analyzer for automobile emissions testing. Masahiro Oura, then a young employee but who eventually became the second president of HORIBA, developed the MEXA analyzer for testing automobile emissions. The MEXA analyzer soon became the world standard for testing emissions. The Osaka and Kyoto Stock Exchanges listed HORIBA, Ltd. as a public company in 1971, much to the joy of the company's original investors. Over a decade later, the Tokyo Stock Exchange listed the company. Horiba was quick to strengthen bonds with other countries and established a subsidiary in the United States. The company also has affiliates throughout Europe and Asia. In 1978, as the company celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, it adopted the simple yet highly effective corporate motto, "Joy and Fun." That same year, Masao Horiba retired as president and assumed the office of chairman. Currently, Horiba's son, Atsushi Horiba, is president of the company. Horiba concludes the interview with reflections on his innovations in corporate management and the importance of venture capitalism.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 148 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0305

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 01, 1924
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • July 14, 2015
  • Kyoto, Japan


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1946 Kyōto Teikoku Daigaku BS Physics
1961 Hyogo Prefectural School of Medicine PhD

Professional Experience

Horiba Radio Laboratory

  • 1945 Founder


  • 1953 Founder
  • 1953 to 1978 President
  • 1978 to 1995 Chairman
  • 1995 to 2005 Board Chairman
  • 2005 Supreme Counsel


  • 1974 to 1995 President
  • 1996 to 2005 Honorary Chairman
  • 2005 Supreme Counsel

Kyoto Scientific Instruments Association

  • 1978 Chairman

Japan Electric Measuring Instruments Manufacturers Association

  • 1985 to 2003 Vice Chairman
  • 2003 Advisor

Advanced Software Technology & Mechatronics Research Institute of Kyoto

  • 1988 to 2002 Chairman
  • 2002 Supreme Advisor

Kokoro Wa Venture, Television Program

  • 1997 to 1998 Host

Japan Association of New Business Incubation Organizations

  • 1999 Director General

Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry

  • 2001 Vice Chairman


Year(s) Award
1982 Blue Ribbon Medal of Honor, Government of Japan
2004 Establishment of the Masao Horiba Award, HORIBA, Ltd.
2006 Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation

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PDF — 2.2 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

12 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads