Japan Lags Behind

As a high school student in the 1970s, Mariko Kato was fascinated by physics. At an after-hours physics club at her school, she was so busy devouring Richard Feynman's lectures on quantum mechanics that she barely noticed she was the only girl in the room. "The complexity of nature was refined into these simple, beautiful theories," says Kato. "I only wanted to learn more."

Her parents, however, had other dreams for their daughter—they saw her as a piano teacher for young children. When Kato announced she intended to study physics at college, Kato's mother burst into tears....

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