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Interview: Hajime Ishimaru

History Interview
1994 Albert Nerken Award Winner - October, 1994

ISHIMARU: This is a great honor I have received as a scientist. I would like to thank my many colleagues, too numerous to mention. My special thank go to Professor Tetsuji Nishikawa, the former Director of KEK, and Professor Yoshitaka Kimura, our vice-director, to whom I am eternally grateful for the encouragement to continue advancing the state of the art here at KEK. 

I would like to relate to you my experiences with AVS. In 1978, I published my first JVST paper, but without any considerable work or support from my colleagues. The colliding accelerator machines, such as SPEAR, used a chamber made of aluminum alloy, and flanges made of stainless steel. Since stainless steel flanges cannot be joined directly with an aluminum alloy chamber, I decided to develop the technology for metal seal joining using aluminum alloy. After assembling and testing an aluminum alloy flange with metal seal gaskets available at that time, it was found that the pressure scratches which formed on the seal area of the gasket made an inferior seal over some time. I was then directed to an aluminum super-alloy, 2219-T87, which was being used in space technology. At that time, this alloy was not a Japanese industry standard but was receiving American standard listing. Using this alloy when testing the flanges, pressure scratches on the gasket were eliminated. 

During this period, I wore my uniform and safety shoes while taking a catnap on my sofa bed in the laboratory. [Chuckles] Days and nights began to blend together. I even drew a set of eyes on my eye mask so I could claim that I was awake while I slept! I finally completed my research and made a presentation at the Japanese Symposium on Accelerator Science, but without much response. I then decided to submit my research to the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology. At that time, a vacuum specialist from CERN, Dr. Alastair Mathewson, was visiting KEK. I asked him to read my article before submission to the Journal. Not only did he not express much interest, he questioned the vacuum seal material. 

However, the article was published, and a Japanese professor stopped me in the hallway and warned me that I was tarnishing the laboratory's name by submitting false material. [Laughs] After the paper was published, I received over 100 request reprints! A year later, in 1979, I received an award, the best Shop Note, from the AVS. This was my first award, but I was not able to attend the Award Ceremony in New York due to budget constraints. Later, I received the award certificate in the mail. Since I was unfamiliar with the specific award, I consulted a vacuum specialist in Japan, and he had never heard of this particular award, either! I think Japanese vacuum scientists were unfamiliar with the AVS at that time. In 1984, I attended an AVS meeting here in Boston for the first time. An AVS Honorary Membership recipient, Dr. Manfred Kaminsky, came to the KEK and invited me to talk at that meeting. 

The following year, I brought my wife to this meeting which was held at the Boston Sheraton Hotel. My wife and I had a previous meeting with Professor T. Takagi, who is famous for his work in ion engineering. He explained that, in America, the more successful you become, the more freedom you obtain. He told me, "Work hard, and you will be awarded with various luxuries such as private jets and a stretch limousine." These words left a strong impression for me. I took my wife on the private airplane piloted by Mr. Kurt Lesker, president of Kurt Lesker Company, but I found the turbulence to be unbearable! Since then, I haven't missed a single year in attending, or presenting a talk at, the AVS. 

While visiting all of the finest research institutes, including later in Japan, I soon had a nickname: "Aluminum" Ishimaru. This caught up on me. My good friend, Dr. Oswald Groebner from CERN, asked me how I would write aluminum in Japanese kanji characters. When I replied that there weren't any kanji characters for the word aluminum, a Taiwanese professor, Yuen-Chung Liu, now Director of SRRC, said that that wasn't true. He wrote the appropriate kanji character. And then Groebner said he wanted to change my name from "Ishimaru" to "Alumaru"; "ishi" means "the stone". However, "Aluminum Ishimaru" is much better! A letter from Dr. Ralph Niemann, Argonne National Laboratory, addressed to "Alumaru" reached my mailbox without any problem!

In closing, I would like to thank the AVS Albert Nerken Award Nomination Committee for selecting me to receive the 1994 Albert Nerken Award. I appreciate Dr. Fred Dylla for his recommendation. Thank you very much.