Masao Horiba

Born: December 1, 1924 | Kyoto, JP
Died: July 14, 2015 | Kyoto, JP
Photograph of Masao Horiba

Masao Horiba begins his oral history by discussing his childhood, schooling, and life during World War II in Japan, where Horiba earned a BS in physics and established his own laboratory, Horiba Radio Laboratory (later incorporated as HORIBA, Ltd. ). Horiba's company built and improved upon a pH meter, among various other products, and, by the 1960s, began producing Hitachi, Ltd's analytical instrumentation, as well as a new analyzer for testing automobile emissions. HORIBA, Ltd. went public in 1971, and Horiba reflects on his still-thriving business and innovations in corporate management.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0305
No. of pages: 148
Minutes: 678

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock
19-20 November 2004
HORIBA, Ltd., Kyoto, Japan

Abstract of Interview

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 BS 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.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1946 Kyoto Imperial University BS Physics
1961 Hyogo Prefectural School of Medicine PhD

Professional Experience

Horiba Radio Laboratory



1953 to 1978
1978 to 1995
1995 to 2005
Board Chairman
Supreme Counsel


1974 to 1995
1996 to 2005
Honorary Chairman
Supreme Counsel

Kyoto Scientific Instruments Association


Japan Electric Measuring Instruments Manufacturers Association

1985 to 2003
Vice Chairman

Advanced Software Technology & Mechatronics Research Institute of Kyoto

1988 to 2002
Supreme Advisor

Kokoro Wa Venture, Television Program

1997 to 1998

Japan Association of New Business Incubation Organizations

Director General

Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Vice Chairman


Year(s) Award

Blue Ribbon Medal of Honor, Government of Japan


Establishment of the Masao Horiba Award, HORIBA, Ltd.


Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation

Table of Contents

Family History and Early Life Experiences

Father's interest in physical chemistry and music. Childhood experiences in the 1920s and 1930s. The effects of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Early interest in science and technology. Shadowing his father on visits to chemical companies and former students. Attending the Konan Boys' High School. The cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Life lessons learned while playing rugby. Career aspirations and the decision to attend Kyoto Imperial University.

Kyoto Imperial University and World War II

The effects of World War II. Professor Bunsaku Arakatsu as a teacher and researcher. The academic excellence of Kyoto Imperial University. The university's influence on the formation of the Kyoto Consortium of Schools. Decision to join the Japanese military. Meeting and marrying Mikiko Horiba. The Horiba System and the war effort. Thesis work on the digital counter circuit. The effect of American occupation on Japanese research. The decision to leave Kyoto Imperial University and start a private laboratory.

Horiba Radio Laboratory

Reasons for establishing the laboratory. Early products: power outage emergency lamp, high-speed counter, and medical products. Quality concerns and the need to mass-produce high-quality capacitors. The search for investors and the financial burdens of the Korean War. A new business. Japan's need for a better pH meter. Comparison to the competition: the Beckman pH meter. Reflection on the opinions of family, friends, and clients on the establishment of Horiba Radio Laboratory.

HORIBA, Ltd. : the Company

The incorporation of Horiba Radio Laboratory into HORIBA, Ltd. Continued development of a commercial pH meter. Partnership with Kitahama Works Company, Ltd. Inorganic single crystal windows and the infrared gas analyzer. Assistance from Kyoto Imperial University in the form of a graduate student, Masahiro Oura. Reflection on the importance of Japanese instrumentation over the past fifty years. Manufacturing of infrared gas analyzers and encouragement from the president of Applied Physics Corporation. Relationship with Hitachi, Ltd. and the double brand name HITACHI-HORIBA. Medical applications for infrared technology. Interest in medical science and motivation to earn a doctorate studying blood serum. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry's interest in HORIBA technology. Oura's work on the MEXA analyzer. Listing on the Osaka Stock Exchange. Venturing into the American market with Olson-HORIBA Inc. The importance of making quality instruments. As the world standard in emissions testing. The importance of companies working together to produce standardized instrumentation. The formation of STEC Inc. and the mass flow controller. Listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

HORIBA, Ltd. : the Corporate Philosophy

The importance of a corporate motto in Japan. Motto contest among employees. The meaning of "Joy and Fun. " The need to "let the nail stand out. " The ultimate goal. Retirement is like the passing of a rugby ball. Atsushi Horiba's evolving role in HORIBA. Oura's retirement.


Current interests. Opinion on the state of Japanese society and the need for change. Reflection on personal innovations in corporate management. The importance of venture capitalism.


About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

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.